Saudi low-cost airline Flyadeal, the sister of the Saudi flag carrier, plans to launch a joint effort to expand its international presence beyond Dubai before the end of the year, as its fleet size increases to 19 Airbus A320 / A320neos .
Launched in 2017 and initially overwhelmed by domestic demand, the airline’s challenges included a reversal in plans to take over the 30 Boeing 737 Maxes after the model was put in place and, finally, the Covid-19. Today, CEO Con Corfiatis calls the delayed launch of a number of international destinations a disguised blessing.
“We thought we would fly internationally sooner than we had, but we found that when we were receiving deliveries, the market was just screaming for capacity to settle in the country,” he said. Starting Dubai as its only route abroad until July 1, Flyadeal saw that this destination was suspended four days later due to the pandemic and was not reactivated until September 16. In addition to Dubai, Flyadeal now operates 18 inland routes from 13 destinations.
“We would have said that the domestic market would have returned to 2019 levels before the end of 2021, but the Delta variant came and that probably pushed the number, to what we do not know exactly,” Korfiatis said.
From the start, the airline has received 11 A320ceos, all leased data as new. The other three A320neos came from a 65-aircraft order placed by parent company Saudi Arabia during the Paris Airshow 2019, including 30 of the base Neos for Flyadeal. Saudi Arabia still has options for another 100 Neo. “Ideally we would like to implement those opportunities,” Corfiatis said. “If you put them in the equation, this is 50 for us and 50 for Saudi Arabia. The first of our 30 shipments were these three A320neo, so we have 27 more to go. We got [four] coming late this year and a fairly large number next year. Then it continues until 2025. “
The Saudi order for 20 A321neos and 15 A321XLR remains destined for the flag carrier, Corfiatis said. “Could Flyadeal be interested in A321 aircraft in general, moving forward?” he asked. “Yes, judging by our internal load factors on thick roads. We can certainly fill a larger aircraft. A321 with some kind of long-range operation, whether it is an XLR or an LR. “It may be interesting for us, as we move further away from Saudi Arabia internationally over time.”
Load factors have exceeded 80 percent since the launch of Flyadeal. “We do not publish exact numbers, but we have always flown with very high load factors. Even in an internal context in the existing network, in a number of sectors, we can fill a fairly smooth A321. “
Corfiatis sees the international network grow concentrically. “The early new roads would be closer to home, perhaps. Over time, we will go further.”
“We only have a few direct flights to Dubai; we are still far from having an international network. We look forward to building it, and having a fairly broad international footprint. We hope to have at least one, maybe two, more international destinations before the end of this year. ”
India, Egypt and Europe all stand as opportunities, but Corfiatis was restrained for commercial reasons. “We’ve had a 10-year look at what the organization and the network might look like, and all those places show up and are accessible with the A320neo. Variant A321 [would] provide even longer trips, but even with the A320, we can touch all those places. “
To mimic Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways, London Heathrow also appeals to Corfiatis. Flyadeal uses a 196-seat configuration, the densest on the A320 in the Middle East.
“I think it’s just a small stretch for the 320neo from here,” he said. “We got very close to him, but not at all; maybe with some load restrictions we can get there. It’s a matter of whether it then becomes commercial. If we take a 321LR, for example, then the UK is very clear. “
Despite the slow path to worldwide re-certification, Corfiatis does not rule out reviewing an order for the Boeing 737 Max in the second half of the decade.
“Obviously, the Max order is really unfortunate,” he said. This was far from ideal. The fact that it partially slowed us down – and Covid slowed us down a lot more in some ways – turned out to be a saving grace, because if we had a much bigger fleet dedicated to the internationals [service], to survive by the time of Covid would be much more difficult than it has been. “
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