Saudi Arabia’s budget airline flynas has announced the launch of direct flights to Jeddah from Manchester starting in May.
The flights will operate three times a week from Manchester Airport and the service will also be complemented by direct routes between Jeddah and London Gatwick.
The announcement was made to senior executives in the industry at Hilton Manchester Deansgate by Raja Azmi, chief executive of flynas. It was attended by Sulaiman Al Hamdan, group chief executive of flynas’ parent company NAS Holding and Charlie Cornish, group chief executive, Manchester Airports Group.
The expansion of flynas’ network is part of its ambitious Global Flight Routes programme and the UK is the first European nation to be served by the Saudi-based carrier.
Saudi Arabia is seen as a key growth market for visitors and is amongst the 20 countries seen as major emerging markets.
The flights are expected to serve a high volume of business travel between the two countries as well as service the UK’s Muslim population, especially when travelling to perform the religious pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah.
The route is also expected to serve Saudi students heading to Manchester for higher education,
Mr Azmi said: “The expansion of our network to include destinations that are seen as high-growth markets is a key element of our strategy to lead the airline into a new chapter of aggressive development. It’s no surprise that the UK was the first country to be picked in Europe for the expansion of our route network.
“We expect the opening of the Manchester route to be popular among students and their families as well as business travellers to Saudi Arabia from the north of Britain.”
Mr Al Hamdan added: “The launch of flynas’ non-stop flights to Manchester will significantly add to capacity on this route. We expect to capture the air passenger segment from both countries that appreciates a high value offering, through the introduction of the new concept of Low Cost Carrier Plus (LCC+) which will allow passengers to enjoy affordable travel to international destinations while choosing from a range of services and in-flight entertainment.”
The news follows the announcement from Saudi Airlines to return to Manchester with a direct route to Jeddah this month.
Mr Cornish said: “Manchester Airport had a successful year in 2013 with passenger numbers rising over the 20m mark and a significant number of new direct services being added to our route network.
“The addition of further services to Jeddah with flynas will allow more passengers to fly direct to Saudi Arabia, whilst also providing further choice through their onward links to the Middle East and North Africa. Manchester Airport continues to act as a gateway to and from the north of England and we are delighted to welcome flynas to the fold.”
Other destinations that are set to be rolled out as part of flynas’ Global Flight Routes programme include Paris, France; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Jakarta, Indonesia; Karachi, Pakistan and Casablanca, Morocco.