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Bagging a deal

The Gulf region has traditionally favoured hybrid operations over no-frills. Richard Maslen talks to Con Korfiatis, CEO of flyadeal, about bringing pure low cost travel to Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Arabian aviation market has been one of the most highly regulated in the world, for a long time limiting development opportunities for not only potential foreign investors, but also local interests.

Things started to change in the last decade as an urgent solution was required to meet rising demand driven by growing population and affluence. With the kingdom’s regulator, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), predicting annual traffic to soar beyond 100 million passengers per annum by 2020, the door was finally opened to new entrants.

Saudi Arabia is a country in transition and that is not more clearly typified than through flyadeal. With the development of tourism and transport infrastructure being a key pillar in the kingdom’s ‘Vision 2030’ economic diversification programme that has aims to grow the target cities of Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam into the top 100 globally, the low cost airline and its modern brand fits with the changing demographic within the country, one of the fastest growing social media user bases across the globe.

Social media and digital distribution have been key drivers for the new entrant across its first five months of operation. After securing its operating licence in September 2017, it opened reservations on its initial flights from Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport on 19 September 2017, selling more than 10,000 tickets in the first 24 hours with an offer of one-way fares from SAR48 ($12.80).

Just a few days later the airline launched operations on Saudi Arabia’s National Day (23 September 2017) linking the country’s own domestic golden triangle and its most competitive routes connecting the major cities of Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam. It has now grown its network to also include Abha, Jazan and Qassim having boosted its fleet to five Airbus A320s, all arranged in a single, Economy class configuration with seating for 186 passengers.

The airline’s marketing strategy has been based purely around digital and social media, with no traditional advertising. “We've been completely overwhelmed by the demand,” explains its CEO, Con Korfiatis, who sees a ‘tremendous opportunity’ for the carrier within Saudi Arabia and growing into international markets. Rapid market liberalisation is bringing a tremendous growth and despite its already sizeable scale, Korfiatis believes the Saudi Arabian domestic market is ‘far from mature’ and open for ‘very significant growth’ with ‘a number of connectivity white spots’ across the kingdom open and attractive for low cost air links. >>


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