Saudia Plans New China, Nigeria, South Africa And UK Routes

Credit: Rob Finlayson

Saudia is planning to further expand its network in Asia, Europe and Africa later in 2023, backed by a Saudi Arabian government scheme designed to draw in more tourists.

With the support of the Saudi Air Connectivity Program (ACP), the airline said it intends to start four new routes, offering flights to China’s capital Beijing, Birmingham in the UK, Johannesburg in South Africa, and Kano in Nigeria.

The connectivity program, financed by the state-owned Public Investment Fund, was established in 2021 as part of the kingdom’s desire to attract 100 million tourists annually by 2030. The airline is also seeking to increase the number of destinations with direct flights from the country to more than 250, up from about 120 at the present time.

Saudia has already launched routes to cities including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Seoul and Zurich since last July, each of which have been supported by the ACP.

“Air connectivity will play an increasingly important role in enabling tourism growth and creating new opportunities for businesses and tourists alike,” ACP CEO Ali Rajab said.

Saudia CEO Ibrahim Koshy said the proposed new routes would also increase the number of religious tourists for Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, as well as supporting inbound leisure activities. He added that the recent introduction of a new 96-hour stopover visa would also help to boost transit traffic.

Details of the planned services to Beijing, Birmingham, Johannesburg and Kano are yet to be announced, while the value of the subsidies on offer has also not been revealed.

However, data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser shows that Saudia already has a long-standing route to Kano (KAN) from Jeddah (JED), suggesting that flights to the Nigerian city will likely be from Riyadh (RUH), Madinah (MED) or Dammam (DMM).

The airline also served Johannesburg (JNB) from Jeddah in the past, operating the route four times per week until January 2020. This could therefore be a candidate to return.

Under the Saudi national aviation strategy, the government is also preparing to launch a new flag-carrier. The proposed airline is expected to be based at Riyadh, while Saudia’s main hub will remain at Jeddah.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.