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nasair to lease four aircraft to boost route network

Saudi airline also eyes smaller planes to tap domestic market.
nasair CEO Francois Bouteiller
nasair CEO Francois Bouteiller

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Low cost Saudi Arabian airline nasair is to add four new aircraft to its fleet this year in a bid to boost the number of routes in its flight network.

The privately-owned carrier will lease the additional planes while it awaits the delivery of 20 aircraft, which are already on order from Airbus and Embraer.

It currently has a fleet of eight Airbus A320s and six Embraer E190s.

“We will be leasing additional aircraft this year, probably four,” said nasair CEO Francois Bouteiller.

“nas still has some planes that have not been delivered yet. Altogether between Airbus and Embraer there are about 20 aircraft still to be delivered. We will take some next year. But it doesn’t mean the company isn't going to take other aircraft in the mean time.”

The Riyadh based company was still deciding on which manufacturer to lease the aircraft from, he said, but would most likely choose Airbus.

He declined to give details of the new routes, except to say one would be to Egypt.

In addition to the planes for international travel, the airline is also eyeing smaller aircraft with a view to tapping the domestic market.

Bouteiller refused to specify when or how many aircraft would be added, but said he “definitely” wanted to increase the firm’s presence within Saudi Arabia.

“The fact that [the airline] Sama went bust in 2009 left some room in the domestic market and we’re definitely interested in finding ways to be able to offer [these services].

“But our existing aircraft cannot serve the domestic market and make profit. If you are to serve this domestic market that was served by Sama, you need to have a different type of model.”

Five year old Nas Air currently operates 24 routes, eight of which are within Saudi Arabia.

The company is one of several young Gulf carriers yet to make a profit, after being hit hard by the Arab Spring protests last year, which forced airlines to suspend some operations and reduced passenger numbers to certain destinations.

Bouteiller said business has begun to pick up in the first quarter of 2012, with the airline recording 20 percent growth in year on year revenues and a 75 percent load factor for the period.

By the end of the year, he expects the airline to see a profit, and carry some 3m passengers, up from 2.5m in 2011.

“We’re certainly hoping to make a profit this year, but it will be a challenge because of the price of fuel. We will also be announcing new routes through partnerships, and for the summer we will be increasing our presence in key markets.”
 

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