Bahrain is a high growth market for Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) as air traffic between the two kingdoms continues to surge, the Saudi national carrier's top official said.
"Saudia operates daily flights to Bahrain, occupies 65 per cent of the market and operates 50 to 60 per cent of flights between Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries," the airline's director general Khaled Al Molhem told the Gulf Daily News, Trade Arabia's sister publication, on the sidelines of the opening of a new office in Bahrain.
"The airline is committed to meet the rising demand of passengers travelling between the two countries by increasing scheduled flights and operating additional flights, especially during the Haj season and for Umrah," Al Molhem said.
The opening of the new office in Bahrain was part of the airline's regional expansion plan, he added.
Saudia carried 24 million passengers last year, 2.85 million or 13.3 per cent more than in 2011.
The airline operated a record 171,341 flights during the year, 8 per cent more than the 158,449 flights in 2011.
"We expect the growth to continue this year as well and estimate that 26 million passengers would have flown Saudia by end of 2013," Al Molhem said.
To cater to the growing traffic volumes, the carrier is in the process of beefing up its fleet by purchasing 90 new aircraft, 62 of which have already been inducted last year and so far this year.
"Our carrying capacity got a boost after we received new Airbus SAS aircraft (A320, A321, and A330) and Boeing's wide body 777-300ER jets last year, allowing us to increase the number of seats and flight frequencies," he said.
"This year alone we will receive 12 new aircraft."
The airline plans to start flights to Toronto and Los Angeles shortly.
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