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in Air Transport / Features

Baby booming…

Posted 24 September 2018 · Add Comment

As Saudi low-cost carrier, Flyadeal, approaches its first birthday, it is about to embark on a huge expansion programme, with a major order for new aircraft imminent. Alan Dron reports.

It will be, by any standards, a leap to a new league in terms of size. Jeddah-based low-cost carrier (LCC) Flyadeal is on the verge of placing an order for around 50 aircraft, which will dwarf its current fleet size of eight machines.
The new aircraft are being acquired to cope with rapid growth that the airline has already experienced and for future expansion. “There’s been tremendous growth,” said CEO Con Korfiatis.
The airline has not yet decided how it will finance the new aircraft. However, a combination of methods, including sale and leaseback, is likely.
Although the airline started its operational life with Airbus A320s, there is no guarantee that the European airliner will win the new order, said Korfiatis: “It’s a true competition between the manufacturers, which is exactly what we wanted to see. We’re hoping to have it done by the end of June.”
Before the new aircraft start to arrive, however, Flyadeal is planning to acquire an interim batch of new aircraft. This is partly because the carrier, which has until now operated purely within Saudi Arabia, is considering the launch of international services. The airline has previously said that it anticipates that “a significant proportion” of its route network will be international.
While not disclosing detailed figures, load factors, said Korfiatis, have been very high. “All I can say is that they have been better than even we anticipated, probably the highest in the kingdom.”
At the time of writing, the airline’s routes covered seven cities: Riyadh, Jeddah, Jazan, Abha, Dammam, Qassim and Tabuk.
The strongest traffic is on the traditionally heavily travelled Jeddah-Riyadh route. Flyadeal, which is a sister company of national carrier Saudia, operates up to eight services a day on the route.
Saudi Arabia has seen a huge increase in competition over the past two years with the liberalisation of its domestic market. Whereas, previously, only Saudia and hybrid carrier Flynas contested the airways, they have been joined by Saudi-Egyptian carrier Nesma Airlines, and premium carrier SaudiGulf Airlines, as well as Flyadeal.
It had been feared that newcomers such as Flyadeal would only prosper by stealing market share from existing carriers, “but that’s a no-win game at the end of the day”, said Korfiatis. “We feel we’re growing the market. From what we can see, it’s holding up for everybody.” That, he added, reflects global experience. When LCCs appear in a new market their low fares encourage people who have never flown before to buy tickets, and existing travellers tend to fly more frequently.
Flyadeal has received “very positive feedback” from its users, said Korfiatis. “We launched the airline entirely through social media. As far as we know, it’s a global first and we haven’t had to move away from that [method].
Flyadeal’s A320s have a seat pitch of 29 inches. But, although this may seem rather tight, Korfiatis said there had been no feedback on them from passengers: “I think seat manufacturers these days have done such a fantastic job on design. I sit very comfortably and I put that down to the seat design.
“For those who do want to have extra pitch, we have a number of rows [with more room]. We sell those as rows for additional comfort.”
The first row and window emergency exit rows have 38in pitch, while rows two to four have 30-inch pitch. Each seat has a USB charging port for electronic devices and a seatback holder for mobile phones or tablets to be positioned at a comfortable height for passengers who want to watch content.
Recent new facilities for Flyadeal passengers include a mobile app that allows them to make bookings, manage them and check-in online. In an effort to improve the initial app, the company has offered members of the public free tickets for the best ideas to enhance it.
Expect to see a lot more of Flyadeal’s purple-and-lime colour scheme in the region’s skies in coming years.
 

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