on the fly: What are Saudi Arabia’s busiest international routes?
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Many countries have less airline capacity today when compared to 2019. Saudi Arabia, however, is among the minority of countries with more capacity today. For the April-to-June quarter, seats on domestic routes are scheduled to be down 7% from four years earlier, but international seats will be up 17%.
This impressive growth comes as Saudi Arabia tries to boost tourism and encourage more air links abroad. The growth also reflects a spike in activity among low-cost carriers. These include Saudia’s low-fare unit Flyadeal, its rival Flynas, India’s IndiGo, and even Europe’s Wizz Air, which entered the market in a big way just last year. Air Arabia and FlyDubai are major players in the Saudi market as well, though haven’t grown much there since the pandemic. Also present are Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways, Air Cairo, SalamAir of Oman, Air India Express, Turkey’s Pegasus, and so on.
Qatar Airways also helps explain Saudi Arabia’s recent growth in airline capacity. It’s now permitted to serve the market again, having been subject to an embargo in 2019. On the other hand, Saudia’s mainline operation remains smaller internationally than it was pre-pandemic. The same situation applies for Emirates and Etihad, with respect to their service to Saudi Arabia.
Expect some big changes to this list in the years ahead as the Kingdom launches an ambitious new international airline called Riyadh Air. The country’s capital is also building a giant new airport.
Shown below are the Kingdom’s top international airline markets ranked by scheduled seats for the April-to-June quarter. Cairo and Dubai are by far the busiest.
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