x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Saudi Arabia’s low cost carrier flynas has become the latest airline to make the switch on routes between the UAE and the kingdom.

Shereen El Gazzar

Budget carriers are adding premium seats to tap rising demand from business travel across the Arabian Gulf.

Saudi Arabia’s low cost carrier flynas has become the latest airline to make the switch on routes between the UAE and the kingdom.

The carrier, which has 42 flights a week between UAE and Saudi Arabia, said it will start the new service from this month.

“Flynas business class is a key part of our recent rebranding and is integral to our 20X20 strategy targeting our goal of carrying 20 million passengers yearly by 2020,” said Wael Al Sarhan, a spokesman for the airline.

The business class cabin will feature eight-48 inches wide seats with larger arm rests. It will also allow passengers to carry two pieces of baggage weighing as much as 25 kilogrammes each.

Middle East airlines are expected to generate as much US$2.4 billion in profits this year – or 50 per cent more on what they were estimated to have made last year according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata). Profit margins are also expected to rise to 4.7 per cent this year from 3.8 per cent last year.

“The region’s hubs, particularly in the Gulf, continue to expand in support of growing long-haul connectivity,” said Iata in its airline industry financial outlook report. “Strong oil revenues, as oil prices stay high, continue to support travel generated by domestic activity and the development of the tourist industry.”

With many multinationals servicing the broader Arabian Gulf from offices in the UAE, the outlook for premium business travel is improving.

“The UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia enjoy strong economic ties and as a result of the continuing prosperity of both countries there is an ever increasing amount of business and leisure travel between the two, with a corresponding demand for a flynas business class service,” said Abdulelah Al Aedi, the director of ground operations at flynas.

The Dubai-based flydubai started offering business class tickets in October on some routes, including Kiev, Istanbul and Bucharest. The carrier said in August that all new aircraft would have business class seats with existing aircraft retrofitted to include them.

“Flynas plans to introduce a business class product is not just copying flydubai’s innovative approach – it also shows that they don’t want to lose out on a potentially lucrative market,” said Saj Ahmad, the chief analyst at StrategicAero Research.

“Whether it can afford to lose more seats in its smaller A320s versus flydubai’s higher capacity 737-800s remains to be seen – that will test whether they can stay low cost like flydubai,” Mr Ahmad added.