Tuesday, 1 November 2016

SAUDI ARABIA: Nesma Airlines Starts Flights To Northern Saudia

Saudi-Egyptian carrier Nesma Airlines has begun services from Hail, in the north of Saudi Arabia, as domestic competition in the country intensifies.

The desert kingdom’s regulator, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), has overseen the issue of licenses to several new airlines, including Nesma, in the past year. For years, traffic in the country has been largely monopolized by national carrier Saudia, with around 10% going to hybrid carrier flynas.

Foreign carriers have also noticeably increased services to Saudi Arabia in an attempt to win a part of the rapidly growing air travel market in the most populous of the Gulf states.

Nesma intends to use Hail as a hub to a network of eight smaller northern Saudi cities: Turaif, Qaisumah, Arar, Rafha, Aljouf, Tabuk, Qaseem and Madinah under the local equivalent of essential air service (EAS) contracts. Nesma also plans to start services to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, the country’s main commercial center Jeddah and the oil-rich Eastern province city of Dammam.

Details of services to the last three cities will be announced in November.

Commenting on the start of Nesma’s services, GACA DG-northern airports Hamad Alkhemaish said the flights marked the start of a national project for hub airports. ATW understands flynas has been given authority to launch a similar series of EAS routes to smaller cities, based on a hub at Abha, in the far southwest of the country.

Nesma Airlines CEO Faisal Alturki said the airline would build up a fleet of six ATR 72-600 turboprops over the next three years. It also intended to acquire single examples of the Airbus A320 and A319 for services from Hail to Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. Two larger A321s are also planned to operate services between the latter three cities.

Partly because of the start of Nesma services, GACA is looking to expand Hail airport. A study is underway that will look at the existing terminal and expansion of the apron area to allow for more aircraft to be parked.