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At the time of writing, Egypt’s Nesma Airlines had just launched domestic flights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) with a pair of ATR 72-600s. The Saudi unit will initially operate from the northern city of Ha’il, before basing aircraft elsewhere in the country and eventually adding international flights.
The launch of a new airline in Saudi Arabia is a landmark event for a sector that has long shied away from competition. Until late last year, state-owned flag-carrier Saudia provided 77% of capacity in the domestic market, with privately-owned Flynas offering the only alternative for travellers. Efforts to launch two other carriers – SaudiGulf Airlines and Al Maha Airways – moved at a glacial pace since 2012, although the former announced progress just as this article went to press.
The establishment of Nesma KSA is also the latest in a series of strategic rebirths by Nesma Egypt, which began life as a charter operator connecting Red Sea and Nile River resorts with Europe in July 2010 – just before President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown and Egypt’s once-flourishing tourism sector nosedived...