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Wed, Dec 13, 2006

Saudi's New Private Carrier Looks At BIG Orders

Newly Licensed NAS Now Plans 100-Plane Fleet

Saudi Arabia's newly licensed National Air Services (NAS), the country's first privately-held airline, announced Wednesday a $2 billion fleet expansion plan. This comes on the heels of last week's announcement it had received a license to operate with plans to expand its five-aircraft fleet to eighteen by 2010.

In a release, NAS Chairman Ayed Al Jeaid said, "The overall growth of Middle East aviation and travel market has served as the catalyst for our significant expansion plans."

The company hasn't published specific numbers yet, but it has said it plans to purchase $2 billion worth of Airbus, Raytheon and Gulfstream aircraft to form the core of what will eventually become budget-carrier NAS. It also says its upcoming purchase will supply aircraft to expand its fleet of fractional-ownership aircraft the company has flown since beginning operations in 1999. Aircraft selection, in terms of seating capacity, will be determined by the specific needs of each business unit says the company.

Al Jeaid said, "This is also in line with NAS's ambitious strategy to diversify its business portfolio and tap new markets."

Airline market expansion has been explosive in the Middle East since 2001. Record oil revenues in the region have driven an economic upturn of sorts and leisure travel has grown along with it.

According to Reuters, the Middle East led airline passenger growth among the world's regions, rising 13.1 percent in the first nine months of 2006 compared to 2005.

NAS says it plans to complete its fleet expansion by 2010.



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