flynas (XY, Riyadh) is planning to return to the longhaul market segment with group chief executive Bander Almohanna confirming a study for widebody aircraft is underway.

Speaking to The National newspaper, Almohanna said the Saudi boutique carrier will start talks with Airbus and Boeing within the next two months ahead of the placement of a sizeable order - possibly 120 jets - comparable to an existing order for 120 A320neo.

“We are starting now to study long-range A321neo LRs and wide-body jets – we’ll either go with A330 or B777,” he said.

“We will launch in the next couple of months a campaign for wide-body jets, targeting destinations that cannot be reached by the existing equipment [fleet]. So this would be mainly the Far East – Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta, Kuala Lumpur Int'l – the far West, and Africa.”

This will be the Saudi carrier's second attempt at longhaul operations following a brief foray into the market in 2014 under its "Global Flight Routes" initiative. At the time, flynas wet-leased three A330s (two A330-200s and one A330-300) from Hi Fly (5K, Lisbon) for use in serving Casablanca Int'l, Islamabad Quaid-e-Azam Int'l, Karachi Int'l, Peshawar, Lahore Int'l, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, London Gatwick and Manchester Int'l. However, the project was abandoned after just six months with management citing poor load factors for the move.

The decision to return to the niche comes at a time when flynas is faced with increasing competition from rival carriers SaudiGulf Airlines (6S, Dammam) and Saudia (SV, Jeddah).

SaudiGulf has inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Boeing for B777 and B787 Family jets for its own proposed longhaul operations. For its part, Saudia CEO Jaan Albrecht told Arabian Business this week that the carrier will start connecting hub operations at Jeddah's new King AbdulAziz International Airport terminal by March 2019.

“Once it is all done, the new terminal will be a gamechanger, huge for Saudi Arabia and huge for Saudia,” he said.