flynas (XY, Riyadh) has established a subsidiary dedicated to Umrah operations. Unveiled during the World Travel Market Forum in London, the Saudi carrier said flynas Umrah Services has obtained a license from the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to operate Umrah flights.

In addition to air services, Group CEO Bander Al-Mohanna said in a statement that the unit will also offer package deals including attractions, catering, hotel accommodation, tours, and transportation services to Umrah pilgrims.

“flynas Umrah Services offers a number of integrated services to Umrah pilgrims and visitors and will achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which seeks to increase the number of Umrah pilgrims, enter new markets and develop the tourism after Umrah,” he said.

Last month, senior vice president Paul Byrne told CAPA that flynas could use the Umrah and Hajj markets as a basis for a new low-cost, longhaul business.

flynas has historically relied on costly ACMI capacity to handle its Hajj and Umrah charter demand but, given a change in customer behaviour, has now taken to looking at the market from a year-round, as opposed to seasonal, perspective.

“Umrah used to be a short period of the year, but now stretches over ten months. The Hajj takes the other two months more or less. Now we can see a year-round value for long haul,” he said.

Byrne said a lot of the destinations flynas may serve would also appeal to Saudi vacationers.

flynas was looking at aircraft with up to 300 seats but not so dense given some of the sectors flown may be 8-10 hours of flying time.

"We're looking at places like Indonesia and Morocco where you would probably have a premium content as well," he said.

Group CEO for National Air Services, Bander Al Mohanna, has since told Arabian Business news that talks are currently focussed on either A330neo or B787-9s which would then be taken on sales/lease-back. Flynas will next week take delivery of its first A320neo and, according to Al Mohanna, may upgauge some of its other order slots to A321neo(LR)s which may then be used in running Umrah flights to London and cities in France.