Saudi Arabia’s privately owned budget airline Flynas plans to float a request for prequalification for 100 aircraft units in 2016.

“We will be looking at both leased and owned aircraft to gradually replace our existing fleet of 26 all-Airbus leased fleet,” Paul Byrne, flynas chief executive, tells MEED on the sidelines of the Bahrain International Airshow. “We will be looking at a combination of Boeing and Airbus fleet…if we were to go only for Airbus then they should be willing to offer us the best deal.”

Flynas has achieved its first year of profitability in 2015, following a loss-making eight-year period since it was founded.

“We’ve had very patient and generous stakeholders. We have finally reached a position where we can return a modest portion of what they have invested over the years, and look forward to expanding our operations’ profitably,” Byrne added.

Domestic flights currently account for approximately 70 per cent of flights offered by Flynas, with the rest accounted for by short-haul flights to destinations like Cairo and Istanbul. Currently there are no plans to expand the ratio of international flights.

“We’ve established a niche which worked, and we won’t be changing that,” the executive explained.

With the Saudi Arabia government reducing its fuel subsidy to state-backed carrier Saudia, Byrne said the existing fare cap will be correspondingly relaxed. This is understood to create a more level playing field, especially with the long-delayed entry of two new airlines, Qatar-backed Al-Maha Airways and SaudiGulf Airlines, into the Saudi market.

Byrne said that the Saudi aviation regulator has also made some important adjustment over the years to open up the kingdom’s aviation sector to competition although the transition is taking time. “They [General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca)] are now becoming more business-friendly and starting to act like a regulator rather than a political wing of Saudia,” Byrne tells MEED.

Byrne is also optimistic with regard to the planned privatisation of Saudi Arabia’s airports, saying the move is indicative of Gaca’s willingness to assume its role as a regulator rather than an airport operator.