Rebranded Nasair aiming for 20m passengers by 2020

Low-cost carrier is to launch business class as part of its aim to win a bigger slice of Saudi aviation market

Saudi Arabia’s Nasair has overhauled its branding and announced plans to launch business class as the low-cost carrier targets a larger slice of passenger traffic in the Gulf kingdom.

In a statement the airline, which was founded in 2007 as part of plan to diversify Saudi’s aviation sector, had carried 12m passengers to date and was targeting 20m passengers by 2020. Passenger load for the first ten months of the year reached 3m, Nasair said.

As part of its rebranding Nasair has adopted a new ‘flynas’ livery for its fleet, will launch business class on all flights from January 2014, as well as a “customer-centric service model”.

Nasair is currently just one of two airlines operating in Saudi. According to data from CAPA Centre for Aviation, state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines hold a 94 percent share of the domestic market, with Nasair the remaining 6 percent.

Civil aviation authorities in the country are in the process of opening up the industry to foreign investment, with Qatar Airways and one other overseas airline due to start operating domestic services early next year.

Nasair was due to launch flights from Dubai’s new Al Maktoum International last month, although later scrapped these plans. It had also planned an initial public offering on the Saudi bourse in the first quarter of 2014, and had appointed Saudi Fransi Bank as bookrunner, although there have been no recent updates on whether this will go ahead.

The airline recently changed its CEO, with Francois Boutellier replaced by former Air AsiaX boss Raja Azmi.

Since its inception six years, Nasair has failed to turn a profit, reflecting the challenges in a market distorted by government subsidies and price caps, although has previously said that it was on track to post a profit in full-year 2013.

In July the airline said it received its first four new Airbus A320 as part of its deal to purchase ten new aircraft.

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