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Europe gets 42 new Saudi Arabia routes this year; Wizz Air and flyadeal add the most; Riyadh the top ‘new route’ gateway

Wizz Air Budapest

Few intercontinental markets have grown so quickly recently as Saudi Arabia to Europe. It is part of the country’s highly ambitious drive towards Vision 2030 and is assisted by the government’s Air Connectivity Program (ACP). This subsidises new routes and, therefore, facilitates greater connectivity and more tourism. According to Cirium schedules information data, the market has 611 weekly one-way flights in July. Departures have grown considerably year-on-year (+143%).  Much more tellingly, they have risen very strongly versus 2019, the last ‘normal’ July (+82%).

Big Saudi Arabia-Europe growth in 2023

Building on multiple new routes last year, some 42 are expected to begin in 2023. As listed later in the article, none of them have been operated by the stated carrier before, at least not in the past 10 years. The Saudi capital, Riyadh, has the most (23 routes), then Jeddah (10) and Dammam (nine).

Seven carriers have added new services. Wizz Air accounts for most (16 of the 42). It is closely followed by flyadeal, Saudia’s lower-cost unit (13). Then it is flynas (seven), Saudia (three), and one each by Aegean, Pegasus, and Turkish Airlines. More than half of the expansion involves Saudi Arabian carriers.

As the following figure indicates, Wizz Air’s expansion has helped it to become the fifth largest operator between Saudi Arabia and Europe. In July, it has 42 weekly flights on a network spanning 22 routes. However, it is flyadeal and flynas that really stand out. When the trio is added to Saudia and Turkish Airlines, these carriers are mainly responsible for big the increase.

Saudi Arabia-Euope passenger airlines

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The 42 new routes

The routes are summarised below. Budapest, Larnaca and Tbilisi have new service from the three airports: Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam. Getting Saudi flights for the first time include Bucharest, Budapest, Catania, Naples, Venice and Sofia. Wizz Air is betting on the ACP funding and the lower CASKs of its A321neos sustaining low enough fares to meaningfully grow demand.

  • 9 January 2023: Wizz Air, Jeddah-Bucharest (2)
  • 9 January 2023: Wizz Air, Riyadh-Bucharest (2)
  • 9 January 2023: Wizz Air, Riyadh-Budapest (2)
  • 10 January 2023: Wizz Air, Jeddah-Budapest (2)
  • 11 January 2023: Wizz Air, Jeddah-Rome FCO (3)
  • 26 March 2023: Wizz Air, Dammam-Budapest (2)
  • 26 March 2023: Wizz Air, Riyadh-Catania (2)
  • 26 March 2023: Wizz Air, Riyadh-Milan MXP (2)
  • 28 March 2023: Wizz Air, Jeddah-Venice MCO (2)
  • 3 April 2023: Wizz Air, Riyadh-Naples (2)
  • 17 April 2023: Wizz Air, Dammam-Tirana (2)
  • 17 April 2023: Wizz Air, Riyadh-Larnaca (1, later 2)
  • 19 April 2023: Wizz Air, Riyadh-Sofia (2)
  • 20 April 2023: Wizz Air, Riyadh-Venice MCO (1)
  • 1 June 2023: flynas, Dammam-Istanbul SAW (3, later 5)
  • 1 June 2023: Saudia, Jeddah-London LGW (6-weekly, later daily)
  • 1 June 2023: flynas, Riyadh-Tivat (3)
  • 4 June 2023: Aegean, Dammam-Athens (2)
  • 6 June 2023: Pegasus, Riyadh-Trabzon (1)
  • 11 June 2023: Turkish Airlines, Dammam-Antalya (2)
  • 16 June 2023: Saudia, Riyadh-Nice (3)
  • 20 June 2023: flynas, Dammam-Trabzon (4)
  • 21 June 2023: flynas, Dammam-Tirana (3)
  • 21 June 2023: flynas, Riyadh-Antalya (4)
  • 21 June 2023: flyadeal, Riyadh-Sarajevo (3)
  • 21 June 2023: flynas, Riyadh-Yerevan (3)
  • 22 June 2023: flyadeal, Jeddah-Tbilisi (3)
  • 22 June 2023: flyadeal, Jeddah-Trabzon (4)
  • 22 June 2023: flyadeal, Riyadh-Antalya (4)
  • 22 June 2023: flyadeal, Riyadh-Bodrum (2)
  • 22 June 2023: flyadeal, Riyadh-Larnaca (2)
  • 23 June 2023: flyadeal, Riyadh-Izmir (2)
  • 23 June 2023: flyadeal, Riyadh-Heraklion (2)
  • 23 June 2023: flyadeal, Riyadh-Tbilisi (3)
  • 23 June 2023: flyadeal, Riyadh-Trabzon (3)
  • 24 June 2023: flynas, Jeddah-Bodrum (1, later 4)
  • 24 June 2023: flyadeal, Dammam-Tbilisi (2)
  • 24 June 2023: flyadeal, Riyadh-Rhodes (2)
  • 24 June 2023: flyadeal, Riyadh-Tivat (1)
  • 2 July 2023: Saudia, Jeddah-Birmingham (3)
  • 4 July 2023: Wizz Air, Dammam-Larnaca (1, later 2)
  • 5 July 2023: Wizz Air, Jeddah-Larnaca (1, later 2)

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Yet Istanbul remains fundamental

Despite so many new routes, and more coming, the fundamentals have not altered. If examined at the airport level, Saudi Arabia invariably continues to revolve around Turkey, as it always will. Turkish airports account for all but one of its top 10 airport pairs this July, as detailed below. The sole exception is Riyadh to London LHR, with 28 weekly flights – double what it had in the pre-pandemic 2019. If all Saudi-Istanbul routes are combined, this market accounts for 34% of total departures; obviously, sixth freedom passengers are important.

Saudi Arabia - Europe top 10 routes