Saudi Arabian low-cost airline flynas is set to drastically grow in the remainder of this decade. Its Board of Directors has ratified plans to more than double its fleet from the previously projected 120 aircraft to 250 aircraft in 2030, in line with the country’s vision to develop the air travel industry. This should make flynas the biggest low-cost carrier in the Middle East/Gulf region and a serious contender in its home country alongside Saudia Airlines and its subsidiary flyadeal. flynas set to grow its fleet to 250 aircraft around 2030.
Following the ratification of the long-term strategy, Flynas says it is already in negotiations with aircraft manufacturers in drafting agreements. “We will explore aircraft of different capabilities, to fly to new destinations increasing the connection of the world to the Kingdom, support tourism, and contribute to the transportation of pilgrims and Umrah performers”, CEO Bander Almohanna is quoted in a March 28 media statement.
The carrier currently operates an all-Airbus fleet, consisting of eleven A320ceo’s and 21 A320neo’s. In the past two years, it phased out seventeen A320ceo’s as the neo’s were coming in. Flynas originally ordered twenty A320ceo’s in 2013 but converted them into neo’s in January 2017. In addition, it ordered sixty more A320neo’s, bringing its total firm order to eighty A320neo’s plus forty options valued at SAR 32 billion/$8.6 billion. The first was delivered in November 2018, with the rest to follow through 2026.
At the 2019 Paris Airshow, the airline placed an MoU for ten A321XLRs and converted ten A320neos into A321LRs. The XLR-order was confirmed at the Dubai Airshow later that year, but the plans for the LRs were canceled. All neo’s are powered by CFM LEAP-1As, for which the airline announced a multi-year Rate Per Flight-Hour arrangement last December.
Flynas took delivery of its first Airbus A320neo in November 2018. (Airbus)
Flynas used to operate three A319ceo’s and seven A330-200s and -300s, but they were phased out. However, four A330-300s are to join the airline anytime soon on lease from CMB Financial Leasing and Avolon. Back in 2014, the carrier was already looking at the A350 and the Boeing 787 but placed no wide-body order then.
Strong position Airbus doesn’t mean it will win
As flynas is set to grow its fleet to 250 aircraft around 2030, the strong position of Airbus in its backlog doesn’t make it a foregone conclusion that the carrier will remain with Airbus for its fleet expansion. Between 2013 and 2019, the carrier also operated six Boeing 747-400s, a single 757-200 in 2015, and seven 767-300ERs between 2014 and 2018. It had three 737-800s in 2017-2018, two -900ERs in 2018, and in May and June 2018 even three MAX 8s on lease from Lion Air. In 2015, the airline said it was considering a MAX order and also had a look at the Bombardier CSeries. In 2013, flynas operated six leased Embraer E190s.
The airline, which celebrated its fifteenth anniversary on February 17, approved the long-term strategy after reviewing its financial position. Although it hasn’t disclosed details of its financials, flynas says to have recovered strongly from the pandemic, something that is also seen at other low-cost airlines in the region like Air Arabia and flydubai.
In the media statement, Bander Almohanna says: “The decision of the Board of Directors of flynas to raise our new aircraft orders to 250 supports our effort to achieve the Civil Aviation Strategy, and expresses the Board of Directors’ belief in the growth opportunities and positive perspective of domestic and international markets.”
The airline has a strong presence within Saudi Arabia and operates in Egypt, India, Greece, Austria, and the Czech republic. Services to Ukraine have been discontinued following the war there. In 2014, flynas also launched services to Manchester but dropped these after just three months.
The network of flynas as shown on its website. The map still includes Ukraine. (flynas)
Almohanna continues: “From our position as a Saudi air carrier, we see great opportunities for expansion supported by the strategic location of the Kingdom and the prospects opened by Saudi Vision 2030 for the air transport sector. This is reinforced by the launch of the Civil Aviation Strategy, which aims to increase the annual passenger traffic to 330 million and connect KSA with more than 250 destinations worldwide by 2030.” By contrast: the current network connects more than seventy domestic and international destinations, offering more than 1.500 weekly flights. Since its launch in 2007, it has carried more than 55 million passengers. Last November, Saudia Airlines told AirInsight about its own growth plans for the next decade which includes placing an order for some 100 widebodies.
Founded as NAS Air in 2007, Flynas is 63 percent owned by privately-owned National Air Services Company or NAS Holding, with the remaining 37 percent held by Kingdom Holding Company. Both have strong ties to the Saudi state. It has partnerships with Etihad, Egyptair, and Pegasus Airlines.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News. From January 2023, he will add a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.