Saudi budget carrier plans global expansion
Dubai, March 14, 2008
Saudi low-cost carrier NASair yesterday said it plans to open 12 international routes in a bid to break even by the end of this year and will lease at least five aircraft to meet expansion.
The airline, one of two budget carriers in the kingdom, plans to invest 'several hundred million dollars' to lease planes and expand ahead of receiving its first batch of 20 Airbus A-320 single-aisle aircraft in 2012, chief executive Ed Winter said.
'We want to expand internationally as rapidly as we can,' Winter said after the airline opened its first international route to Sharjah. 'I'd like to see this year another 12 destinations. Pakistan we're hoping to fly to soon,' he said.
The airline is also looking to begin flights to India, Egypt, Sudan, Abu Dhabi, Jordan and Syria, Winter said.
Oil prices have risen five-fold during the last six years, spurring economies of the Gulf, the world's biggest oil-exporting region.
That has attracted workers from around the world, especially South Asia, the Middle East and the Philippines, creating opportunities for low-cost carriers to tap into.
Winter said fuel accounted for about 30 per cent of the airline's costs since it began operating in February last year.
NASair is owned by Saudi-based National Air Services Company (NAS), which also operates a luxury airline Al Khayala and a private aviation service that rents and offers part ownerships of jets in the Gulf region.
Kingdom Holding Company, controlled by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, bought a 9 per cent stake in the firm in November.
NAS president said the firm planned to sell 30 per cent of its shares in an initial public offering this year valuing the company at about $2 billion to help finance aircraft purchases.
Winter said NASair would not raise any funds until the IPO, which is schedule for the end of the year.