Saudi Arabia's flynas has approved plans to increase its aircraft order to 250, as it seeks to become the biggest low-cost airline in the Middle East.
It is currently in discussion with aircraft manufacturers for drafting agreements, the airline said in a statement on Monday.
“From our position as a Saudi air carrier, we see great opportunities for expansion supported by the strategic location of the kingdom and the prospects opened by Saudi Vision 2030 for the air transport sector,” said Bander Al Mohanna, chief executive and managing director of flynas.
“This is reinforced by the launch of the Civil Aviation Strategy, which aims to increase the annual passenger traffic to 330 million and connect Saudi Arabia with more than 250 destinations worldwide by 2030.”
He added that flynas would “explore aircraft of different capabilities, to fly to new destinations increasing the connection of the world to the kingdom, support tourism and contribute to the transportation of pilgrims and Umrah performers".
Flynas has 34 aircraft in its fleet at present, operating more than 1,500 weekly flights to 35 domestic and international destinations.
In 2017, the airline placed an order for up to 120 Airbus A320 single-aisle jets at a list value of $8.6 billion.
Mr Al Mohanna said in 2019 that potential plans included long-haul operations using wide-body aircraft. At the time, it was evaluating Airbus A330neo or Boeing 787 planes.
The other major low-cost airlines in the region include UAE's Air Arabia, which has a fleet that consists of 52 new Airbus A320 and six A321 aircraft, and flydubai, which has 59 aircraft, including 34 Boeing 737-800 planes, 22 Boeing 737 Max 8 jets and three Max 9s, with another 161 due for delivery.
Flynas, which has recovered from the pandemic, has been expanding operations and is exploring the opening of new bases in several countries.
The airline launched its first direct international flights to AlUla International Airport from the UAE and Kuwait in November, while also adding domestic routes from Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah.
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Global passenger traffic is on track to rebound to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) said earlier this month. However, high oil prices and the Russia-Ukraine conflict pose near-term risks, it said.
Iata's latest update of its long-term forecast shows that in 2021, overall traveller numbers were 47 per cent of 2019 levels. This is expected to improve to 83 per cent in 2022 and 94 per cent in 2023, before exceeding pre-pandemic levels in 2024 and 2025.
Passenger numbers to, from and within the Middle East are expected to reach 81 per cent of 2019 levels in 2022, 98 per cent in 2024 and to exceed pre-Covid levels in 2025.