Saudi Arabian carrier flynas could use the huge demand for religious travel into the country as the basis of a new low cost long haul business. The carrier believes that travel for both the Umrah and Hajj would provide enough demand through the year to sustain operations and its senior vice president, Paul Byrne confirmed to CAPA TV that it is currently finalising the plans.
The Umrah and Hajj pilgrimages bring millions of Muslims to Mecca, Hijaz, Saudi Arabia every year. The Umrah, which means ‘to visit a populated place’, is generally known as the ‘minor pilgrimage’ or ‘lesser pilgrimage’ and can be undertaken at any time of the year. Meanwhile, the Hajj is a ‘major’ pilgrimage which is compulsory for every Muslim who can afford it and has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar.
Speaking on the sidelines of the CAPA Low Cost Long Haul Global Summit in Seville in early Oct-2018, Mr Byrne said: “Umrah used to be a short period of the year, but now stretches over ten months. The Hajj takes the other two months more or less. Now we can see a year-round value for long haul.”
In the past flynas would wet lease in aircraft and crew for Hajj, typically “doing this at short notice and at very high rates,” according to Mr Byrne. Now it makes more sense for the carrier to look at a 12 month period and rather than paying high rates just for the Hajj, instead have a year round operation at a lower cost.
flynas previously operated some long haul routes back in 2014, but the experiment failed and it was quickly dropped.
LEARN MORE about the development plans of flynas is this exclusive video interview recorded at the CAPA Low Cost Long Haul Global Summit in Oct-2018.