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Fiaramanidina sy COVID-19 any Arabia Saodita: Araka ny hitan'ny CEO jeneralin'ny flyadeal

Richard Maslen:

Well, it’s a really positive story when we compare some of the problems that other airlines have faced. So that’s really encouraging. You mentioned about international now the theme of CAPA Live this month is about international. And we’ll move on to that in a moment, but I just wonder you say that demand has returned. Are you seeing any changes to the trends from passengers? Are booking windows changing? Are you seeing different routes being higher in demand than previously?

Con Korfiatis:

Yeah. Good question. We have an unusual a booking pattern here anyway, certainly compared to other parts of the world before coming here, it’s a very late booking market that was the case in normal days remarkably so. So, I look at the European airlines and what they generate in sales ahead of a summer season around this time of the year, we could only dream we could sell that far out here, it doesn’t happen. People typically book in the last seven days and a big chunk of that comes in the last three or four days. So that behaviors come back and it’s not a surprise, it’s what we were used to. So, it’s fine and that’s at least pleasing to say. So, in that sense, it’s come back in a normal behavioral sense. In terms of  where people are traveling to Jeddah, Riyadh is one of the busiest routes in the world traveled. And that’s come back very strongly and that’s been driven a lot by business size, but also, we’ve had some local events as things have become a little more stable in the latter part of last year and the numbers were way down.

So, we had some events that was moving around a little bit of tourism. I think the routes that have come hat are new routes are really tourism driven ones. So again, were the international options for some domestic tourism through some of the holiday periods, the summer holidays last year, the public holiday breaks. There’s a significant holiday period at the end of the year here as well, albeit it’s sort of winter so to speak. People were exploring domestic destinations and the demand for those destinations became year round as opposed to a little bit seasonal, which was very pleasing to see.

Richard Maslen:

You’ve had the safety net quite fortunately have just being a domestic airline. Your parent has been a bit more impacted by the limited international flows. But as you said, international is a key part of what your development plan is. Where do you stand with that? Obviously, it must be quite difficult to start preparing ahead when there’s so many restrictions still in place, and we don’t know when they’re going to be lifted.

Con Korfiatis:

Very difficult, Rich, I think it’s all about agility. I think look, our sister company, parent company has a substantial wide body fleet, and you can’t really deploy that domestically to a great degree. And that poses obviously far more significant challenges than what we have as purely a narrow body operator, and obviously a significantly smaller fleet as a young airline as well. So, we’re blessed in that sense. We do have commitments for aircraft, and we start taking from our direct order book with Airbus NEOs from April this year, and they’re coming relatively aggressively over the next two years and actually into the next five or six years. And we do need to find more flying for them. I think insofar as a chunk of that going into the domestic market, we’re not too stressed.

And I say that because albeit it’s very material breadth of flight dealing in a context of an entire domestic market and a large sister company and another airline here, it’s a relatively manageable proportion of that. But we do have designs to go international and they were originally for the end of January, we pushed them back to summer. And right now, I think there’s was an announcement in terms of travel plans, international travel plans, and restrictions being pushed back a little bit into May. So, we will push those plans to May or June, but we see opportunity. And I think even in a COVID environment, I think the world will progressively move towards bubbles. We have had some relaxation in terms of international travel into and out of the kingdom, business been allowed to come back in, expatriates living here have been allowed to leave and be able to come back as well.

And I guess most people are probably not going too far away. And we really see those bubbles being predominantly within the region in the early days. And then depending on the speed of getting past the pandemic and enough people being vaccinated and the like, longer haul we’ll be a little bit further away. But having now international operation, we can turn our sights to being relatively within the region and  that’s a logical place for us to start. So, we definitely see with the fleet we have coming this year, we will embark on international during 2021 and it will be relatively close to home to start with.

Richard Maslen:

Okay. Can I have a look from this side of the business when it comes to your route network and your selection of routes, do you have the freedom to pick which route you want to fly, or is there a little bit of support and a little bit of discussion with your parent company as to where you’ll be flying? Will you be flying separate routes to them? Do you fly on the same routes and compliment them with a different model? How will that all work?

Con Korfiatis:

Yeah, that’s also a really good question. And obviously that parent legacy airline low-cost startup relationships and examples are plenty around the world, and no one follows exactly the same model. Different models are successful in different environments, so we’ve had to chart our own course and see what makes sense for our group here. Frankly, all the routes we fly today domestically our sister airline also flies. And we’re not finding really any cannibalization to speak of because we cater to a different market demographic. The sister airline is definitely a premium five-star airline. And we’re not trying to be something that’s a bit of a both or a hybrid, we’ve really pitched ourselves at the true low cost end of the market. So, turning that attention to international, I think will take us… not I think, we will be taking, and we have planned a similar approach to look to that.

So, in other words, if it’s a route that’s really a premium airline route and low cost doesn’t… there’s no role for low cost there, we wouldn’t go near it. Where it’s pure low cost we’ll obviously go and there are places our sister airline does not fly that in the future we will fly to, that will be if you like virgin territory for the group. But at the same time, we also see a significant overlap in routes that the sister airline has flown historically internationally and will go back to. But again, because of the different market demographics and the customer demographics that we see a role for both of us in those markets. So, there’ll be a significant degree of overlap both internationally in the future, as well as domestically.

Richard Maslen:

Okay. And your plans moving forward will be more towards the A320neo now you say you have your first aircraft and aggressive delivery schedule of the rest. Would they directly replace the CEO aircraft, or will they work alongside them?