After launching its first international flight to Sharjah on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s National Air Services-owned budget carrier, NAS Air, is planning to launch 12 new international destinations by the end of this year, according to its chief executive.
Some of these include Abu Dhabi, Pakistan, Sudan, India, Egypt, Jordan, Beirut and Syria.
“Pakistan is one of the key areas for us. We are hoping to start flights to the country within a month’s time,” said Edward W Winter, CEO of Riyadh-based National Air Services (NAS).
In line with its expansion programme, NAS Air is planning to lease five more aircraft this year to add to its current fleet of six, according to Winter. These would be a mix of Airbus A320s and smaller Embraer aircraft.
“To cope with the growth, we have bought a new stream of airlines that will be delivered starting 2012. The challenge, however, is to get planes delivered between now and 2012,” Winter said, refusing to divulge the investment into the carrier’s future fleet acquisitions.
However, NAS Air had confirmed during the Dubai Air show in November last year its agreements with European aircraft manufacturer Airbus for firm orders to buy 20 Airbus A320s for an estimated value exceeding $2.2 billion (Dh8bn) with an option to buy 18 more aircraft.
The company had also announced a $348 million deal with the Brazilian manufacturer Embraer to become the launch partner of their regional aircraft the Embraer 190 with the purchase of five aircraft and with options for another five.
The agreement included purchase rights for 12 additional aircraft of the same model. NAS Air is still awaiting rights to fly into Dubai, according to Winter.
“We started with Sharjah in the UAE as we could not get rights to fly into Dubai. Sharjah follows an open skies policy. However, we are hoping to start flying to Dubai when the new Jebel Ali airport’s (Al Maktoum International Airport) low-cost terminal is ready later this year,” he said.
Meanwhile, fuel continues to be the wild card for NAS Air as it is for most airlines across the world. According to Winter, Fuel accounts for more than 30 per cent of the airline’s costs at the moment.
“We are talking to the government to ease the pains of increasing fuel price. We need a level-playing field,” he said.
$2BN IPO BY Q4 2008
National Air Services is looking to launch an IPO valued at about $2 billion (Dh7.3bn) by the end of this year, according to its chief executive.
“It would not be an IPO for Nas Air alone. It would be for NAS group as a whole, which comprises Nas Air, all-business-class carrier Al Khayala; NetJets Middle East and some other government businesses. And, as of now, we are looking to value it at $2bn,” Edward W Winter, NAS CEO, said.
Winter said Nas Air will break even this year and will make a profit in 2009.
“Last year Nas Air made a loss as there were caps on air fares. Flying domestically is a loss-making proposition. But this year looks good as we look to expand internationally,” said Winter.
NAS Air eyes 12 new cities by year-end