IndiGo plans new flights to Saudi as kingdom opens up to tourists

IndiGo's proposed expansion plans coincide with India and Saudi Arabia agreeing to increase bilateral weekly airline seat capacities by 78.5%
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India’s low cost carrier IndiGo plans to launch new and additional flight services to Saudi Arabia from multiple locations in India, a move seen to tap the expected surge in passenger traffic from the kingdom’s plans to promote tourism in the country.

“We have plans to expand our operations to Saudi Arabia to connect to more destinations as also to increase our frequency in some of our existing routes,” Willy Boulter, chief commercial officer of IndiGo, told Arabian Business.

The IndiGo COO, who did not share the specific plans, indicated that the proposed expansion of services to Saudi Arabia may happen only early next year.

“There will be no launch of new flights to Saudi before this year end,” he said.

IndiGo currently operates direct flights to Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.

IndiGo had earlier announced launch of direct flights to Dammam from Mumbai from mid-July, but those plans have been delayed, said to be due to regulatory approval issues.

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Significantly, IndiGo’s proposed expansion plans in the Saudi Arabia coincides with India and Saudi Arabia agreeing to increase the weekly airline seat capacities between the two countries by 78.5 percent to 50,000.

The expansion of the airline seat capacities under the bilateral air services pact between the two countries will be done in a phased manner, according to a memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries in the last week of October.

As per the agreement, the seat quota will rise to 36,000 in the first phase and to 44,000 and 50,000 in the next two phases after certain conditions are met.

Indian carriers will also continue to get unlimited access at Dammam airport, in the capital of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.

Aviation industry analysts said besides IndiGo, other Indian carriers are also expected to announce plans for more flights to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi expansion plan is also part of the Indian budget carrier’s ambitious growth plans for the Middle East sector, which is amongst the most profitable sectors for all Indian airlines.

“The Middle East sector is a focus sector for us for our international operations. We are currently the second largest carrier from India operating in this sector in terms of seat capacities and frequency,” Boulter told Arabian Business in an earlier interview.

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