Saudi Arabia’s domestic air travel market is witnessing a sharp recovery, with passenger numbers now close to pre-pandemic levels, said the chief executive of state-owned budget carrier flyadeal on Thursday.
The Kingdom, with a population of about 30 million, is by far the largest domestic air travel market in the Gulf, where most countries are small and only have international services.
“The domestic market is pretty much not far off being back to 100 percent. It’s around the 90 percent mark,” Con Korfiatis told Reuters in an online interview.
Flyadeal, a subsidiary of state carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines, resumed flights within Saudi Arabia in late May 2020 after services were suspended that March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and had itself returned to full capacity by October.
The airline is now operating 19 domestic routes to 14 cities, and has one international service from Riyadh to Dubai.
More international flights are scheduled to launch this year, and there are plans to operate more such flights from Riyadh and start international services from Jeddah and Dammam.
Korfiatis said Flyadeal is due to take delivery between now and the end of the year of 4 more aircraft from its 2019 order for 30 Airbus A320neo jets. It has received 3 so far.
There are 15 A320 jets in the fleet as of today, mostly leased ‘CEO’ models which Korfiatis said would likely be phased out when their leases expire around 2025.
The airline will also likely next year exercise purchasing options for an additional 20 A320neos, though it says no decision has been made just yet.
“We need more aircraft,” Korfiatis said.