CONSOLIDATING the existing business and maintaining consistency in schedules will remain the key priorities in 2012, according to the new CEO of nasair, Saudi Arabia’s only current low cost airline. “Our objective is to rationalise the network with the existing equipment that we have and consolidate the business within the existing markets. Basically, we seek to improve our service by increasing frequencies on a daily basis and also maintain consistency in terms of schedules on the current local and international network. We have mainly focused on routes that fall within the two hour segment,” said nasair chief executive officer François Bouteiller, who took charge of the airline in February this year.
The first quarter of 2012 was very successful. “The changes that were brought to the network were very positive and our year-on-year sales increased by 35 per cent,” said Bouteiller. “While we have placed orders for new aircraft, we will be able to talk about new destinations and networks at a later stage in 2012. We prefer to consolidate on our current position at the moment.”
Launched in Saudi Arabia in February 2007, nasair is the country’s first low-cost carrier and currently the only remaining private carrier. Nasair operates 500 weekly flights with a young fleet of 14 aircraft and covers 21 destinations both within and outside Saudi Arabia. Since the launch of its operations, it has transported more than nine million passengers through more than 90,000 flights. It currently operates five non-stop flights between Dubai and Dammam, Gizan, Jeddah, Madinah and Riyadh.
“We have launched three products – Fly Light (a low fare product for customers who fly for short periods of time), Fly Smooth (a traditional product with check-in baggage facilities) and Fly Extra (for business or frequent travellers who wish to change tickets without penalties),’ he added. “The products were developed in accordance with our customer base and needs. Additionally, with an increased use of smart phones, we were the first airline in Saudi Arabia to start services such as offering passengers the option of receiving their boarding pass directly to their mobiles and saving time,” said Bouteiller.
Additionally, nasair signed a landmark franchise agreement at the recent Arabian Travel Mart. It formed a key part of the airline’s Saudization strategy wherein three of the top players in the Saudi market have already secured the franchisee status in select zones in Saudi Arabia. As part of the franchise, the airline will offer a progressive incentive scheme as well as direct referrals, call centre support and consolidation within approved zones. “We benefit in the sense that we will be able to consolidate our visibility in Saudi and other countries.
A large number of travel agencies in different countries (especially UAE) have expressed interest in our product and it is just the beginning,” he said.
By September, the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) in Saudi Arabia is expected to clear new carriers for take-off, according to an agency report and grant airline licenses’ for the right to operate both local and international flights. “The domestic market of around 27 million people is currently under-served despite services offered by the national carrier Saudi Airlines and nasair. Competition is welcome. It will make our life a bit easier and will reduce operating costs in terms of fuel and infrastructure,” said Bouteiller.
By Sona Nambiar