London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi budget airline Flynas has launched two new long-haul flight routes to the UK, the first step in the company’s expansion into Europe.
The carrier will launch three weekly flights from Jeddah to London’s Gatwick Airport on April 8, and three per week from Jeddah to Manchester Airport on May 2.
At a news conference in London on Tuesday, Sulaiman Al-Hamdan, the chief executive of Nas Holding, the company which owns the carrier, told Asharq Al-Awsat that launching new routes to destinations such as London and Manchester reflected the importance of the destinations, and was a response to the growing demand for flights to the UK to and from Saudi Arabia.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Flynas Chief Executive Raja Azmi said: “Long-haul flights were part of our vision for the future and part of the five-year plan that started in 2009.”
Flynas, which was Saudi Arabia’s first low-cost airline when it launched in 2007, plans to grow its fleet to 100 aircraft within the next few years and to expand its routes to include more destinations Europe, Africa and Asia.
Hamdan said the company had added two wide-bodied, two-isle Airbus A330 aircraft to its fleet to serve the new UK routes, with three different price points available—business, added-value economy, and economy—to provide passengers with options.
The recent additions bring the carrier’s total fleet to 27 aircraft: 24 Airbus A320s and three Airbus A330s, all currently leased. But Flynas CEO Azmi said the company was currently considering purchasing more aircraft, including the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 737, which would enable it to carry more than 700 passengers on one flight.
Hamdan said the financing of the leased aircraft for the new routes would come from the company’s investors, adding that the initial lease period for the aircraft was one year, to be extended to three years or longer as required.
Currently, only national carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines and British Airways fly between Saudi Arabia and the UK.
Flynas currently flies to 88 destinations in Saudi Arabia and around the world, including Turkey, Egypt and Sudan.
In February, Flynas announced it had added further routes to Sudan, with three weekly flights to the capital, Khartoum, from Medina commencing in April.
Azmi said 2014 would also see the launch of new routes to Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Casablanca and Karachi.
Despite being a budget airline, Flynas found 30 percent of its passengers had chosen to fly business class, Hamdan said.