Wizz Air is eyeing expanding its route network into Saudi Arabia, as the low-cost carrier has just inked a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Investment of the Kindom of Saudi Arabia today.
The signing was supported by the Saudi National Air Connectivity Program and aims to explore airline market development opportunities in Saudi Arabia, in line with the Kingdom’s strategic and ambitious vision to triple passenger traffic by 2030.
Newly forged partnership
As a significant religious destination that draws millions to the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina annually for the hajj and umrah pilgrimages, Saudi Arabia has most recently begun promoting leisure travel as part of a strategy aimed at diversifying the economy away from oil.
And drawing approximately 62 million tourist visits last year, Saudi Arabia is eager to exceed 70 million this year. In the first quarter of this year, visits increased by 130% compared with the last quarter of 2019, and the Kingdom is expecting to open the doors of several tourism-focused projects over the next few years. One of them is the Red Sea project – a high-end development that will feature resorts on islands and inland.
These projects would require the demand of passengers, which is where this newly-forged partnership with Wizz Air ties in. According to Wizz Air, the two parties will work harmoniously on potential investment and operating models to benefit and contribute to the Saudi Arabian aviation ecosystem to boost the tourism industry and ramp up connectivity.
Wizz Air’s innovative and sustainable ultra-low-cost-carrier model is proven to develop markets by making air travel affordable for more people than ever before. Photo: Wizz Air
Thus, the MoU reflects a shared vision between the parties on the vast traffic potential that the Budapest-based carrier could bring to the Kingdom to stimulate new demand, thereby significantly contributing to Saudi Arabia’s planned growth.
As the world’s fastest-growing low-cost carrier, Wizz Air has undoubtedly grown its presence within the aviation industry pretty aggressively. Unsurprisingly, Wizz Air is already flying on extra-European routes like Israel, Morocco, and Turkey.
Moreover, Wizz Air is also no stranger to the Middle East, as it has a United Arab Emirates joint venture known as Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, which is in conjunction with holding company ADQ. This carrier is looking to double its fleet to eight Airbus aircraft by this October.
However, the aviation industry within the Middle East is still not an easy one to enter through. Besides the Kingdom’s national carrier Saudia, Wizz Air would be competing with the presence of the big three Gulf carriers such as Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar, whereby all three have international flight services to several cities within the Kingdom.
In terms of competing with other low-cost carriers, Wizz Air would be clipping wings with flynas, which operates more than 1,500 weekly flights to 35 domestic and international destinations with over 30 aircraft. Similarly, flynas is looking to contribute significantly to the aviation industry of Saudi Arabia, as confirmed by Bander Al Mohanna, chief executive and managing director of flynas:
“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. flynas will explore aircraft of different capabilities, fly to new destinations increase the connection of the world to the kingdom, support tourism, and contribute to the transportation of pilgrims and Umrah performers”.
flynas has been planning to increase its aircraft order to 250, seeking to become the largest low-cost carrier in the Middle East. Photo: Getty Images
With Wizz Air’s remarkable track record for safety and overall growth, the low-cost carrier would likely not have much of an issue breaking further into the Middle Eastern market. In terms of sustaining and expanding within, that could be a different story altogether given the strength of flynas and other low-cost carriers such as flyadeal.
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About The Author
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As a lifetime aviation enthusiast, Charlotte is currently pursuing a full-time undergraduate degree majoring in Aviation Business Administration. With slightly over a year’s experience in ground handling as a load controller, she continues to explore different fields within the aviation industry. Based in Singapore.
From Charlotte Seet