Aug. 25, 2015

Paul Byrne

Saudi Arabia

Paul Byrne

CEO, Flyna

TBY talks to Paul Byrne, CEO of Flynas, on the World Travel Awards, possible expansions, and opportunities in the market.


Paul Byrne is the CEO of Flynas, a position he took up in November 2014 following a three month term as Commercial Advisor to the airline and a career spanning more than 35 years in the aviation industry. Educated at Chanel College, Coolock, Dubin, Ireland, he holds an MBA from the Open University. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Independent Business International (IIBI) and was its first Chairman in Ireland.

Flynas recently won its first World Travel Award for best low-cost airline in the Middle East. What does this milestone mean for you and the company?

It is a wonderful endorsement of what we are trying to do, and it is important on a number of different levels. First of all, previous winners were all airlines that we are constantly benchmarked against; therefore, we have now achieved a certain level of proficiency. We have got some fantastic crews out there doing wonderful work every day of the week, and I am receiving many compliments on the work that our people are doing in the air and on the ground. We pride ourselves on looking after people. It is great that people recognize our efforts. The Flynas brand is becoming well recognized, certainly in KSA. We are starting to get a really good foothold and reach here. People now know who we are, and that is something we want to keep doing in the region, to keep our brand up there.

Within the four-hour sector, where will Flynas focus its expansion efforts?

At the moment, we do 70% of flying within the Kingdom itself. We only touch on a fraction of the airports around the country. Where we see profit and volume, we are happy to expand on that. We are currently reviewing whether we are flying to the right places, how many times we are flying, and whether we need to expand as an airline. Any expansion will be done organically. We are not going to go with a large aircraft order and then hope that we can fill it to fly somewhere. What we are trying to do is to see if we can get more scientific about what we do, get smarter about what we do. For example, everywhere we fly to we tend to fly from Jeddah and from Riyadh. That is not necessarily a smart move. Jeddah has its own demand. It has the pilgrimage traffic, where a huge amount of people that want to visit the Holy Mosques. As a national carrier, it is almost incumbent upon us to provide that space just for that reason alone. The routes between Jeddah and Riyadh are just phenomenal, the amount of people that will fly between those two cities. Internationally, people in the GCC countries do not need a visa, meaning we have a team looking at where we should be flying in the GCC. If anything, during my tenure, the flight schedule will not change dramatically; however, we will see several changes where we take some unprofitable flying and just change direction on it, and we will have a different schedule in Riyadh than we have in Jeddah. We will not automatically go to both.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities for foreign companies in the market as Saudi Arabia's aviation sector continues its privatization progress?

There has always been an interest. If you look at the volume of traffic of other airlines into the Kingdom, there is constant demand for Jeddah and the pilgrimage traffic, which is not going to stop anytime soon. Once the construction is completed around Mecca, it is going to be phenomenal. There is room for everyone. We do have interest from other countries in domestic flights. It is the largest single domestic market in the region. With 27 million people in the country, a lot of people have to travel long distances. We always focus on that kind of expansion in the market for our sales. However, if other people do, it is up to them to compete with us. 6