The Saudi national carrier has not set a launch date for the new service, which will serve the region with flights to Jeddah for easy access to the nearby holy sites at Mecca and Medina.

The airline had considered launching a low cost commercial service, but is concentrating for now on an affordable service for pilgrims, focusing on the kingdom’s captive market for religious tourism.

Saudia announced recently that it is slashing fares on its international service by up to 50 per cent to compete for passengers during the economic downturn (MEED 10:2:09).