Saudi start-up airline flyadeal is looking to seal a deal for 50 aircraft as part of its ambitious expansion plans.

The low-fare operator, owned by national flag carrier Saudia, only began operations five months ago and currently has five Airbus A320s in action, which will rise to eight by mid-year. But it just recently put out a request for proposals for 50 aircraft, its CEO Con Korfiatis said during a panel discussion at the Aviation Festival Asia.

Participating in a panel in the World Low Cost Airlines Congress channel at the event, Korfiatis told a packed audience in Singapore: “People are loving it – it’s massively expanding the market. We’ve only been around for five months and we’ve only got five aircraft, so we’re barely scratching the surface.

“We’re so confident that three months after kicking off we went with an RFT for up to 50 aircraft. You don’t see a lot of that.” He didn’t specify which of the manufacturers it was talking to, but it’s existing Airbus fleet and its strong focus on keeping costs low may influence it towards remaining a one-make operator.

He added that with a population of 32 million in Saudi Arabia, and its inhabitants “propensity for outbound travel,” there was plenty of room for growth. But he also flagged up the major opportunities that are represented by inbound travellers. “It’s really exciting, we are home to the two most religious Islamic sites in the world with an insatiable thirst from people to come to those sites.”

However, at present the market was artificially constrained to a certain extent by the country’s airport capacity, Jeddah in particular, with around eight million passengers a year at present. The Saudi government has announced a strategy for a new Jeddah terminal before the end of this year that will significantly expand capacity, said Korfiatis.

“That eight million will grow to 30 million – so how many more aircraft does that market need to bring that amount of traffic from an inbound point of view? It’s far from a congested space in low-cost in that part of the world, and it’s got a tremendous future in front of it.”


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