Saudi Arabia is Wizz Air’s most intriguing network development. Motivated by the country’s air connectivity program (ACP), which financially incentivizes carriers to add new services, its opening flight – from Rome to Dammam – has taken off.
It’s the first of 23 Saudi routes on sale, all by non-based aircraft. But that’s not it. Wizz Air expects to launch ‘Wizz Air Saudi Arabia’, growing to 50 aircraft. It’ll operate internationally and – most intriguingly – domestically.
Rome to Dammam begins
The first of Wizz Air’s Saudi routes has started. At 07:47 on September 28th, one-year-old HA-LZC, a 239-seat A321neo, left Rome Fiumicino for Dammam. Despite only becoming a base last year, Fiumicino is already one of the ULCC’s busiest bases.
At 2,372 miles (3,818km), it’s not the carrier’s longest route – that’s Abu Dhabi to Vienna this month – but it’s nonetheless considerable. It has a block time to Dammam of 5h 30m and, because of headwind, typically 6h 15m back.
When writing, the first Rome-Dammam flight is en route. It has covered 1h 29m, with 3h 3m left. Image: Flightradar24 .
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A look at the schedule
The schedule of the first rotation is as follows, with all times local. Note that it differs somewhat from subsequent trips, perhaps for press reasons on arrival. Regardless, the route uses up a considerable amount of an aircraft’s day, with just two sectors to be operated, based on analyzing schedules.
- Rome Fiumicino to Dammam: W68347, 07:30-14:00 (normally 08:25-14:40/08:30-14:45)
- Dammam to Rome Fiumicino: W68348, 15:15-20:15 (normally 15:30-20:45/15:35-20:50)
Like most ULCCs, Wizz Air typically has four to six per aircraft daily to increase passengers and for economic reasons. Rome-Dammam is great for block hours but poor for daily sectors and passengers.
Just €66 the day before
I checked Wizz Air’s website some 13 hours before departure. For a small carry-on bag, the first flight to Dammam was available for just €65.59 ($63.02), including taxes. The fare-per-mile was ludicrously low – just €0.028 ($0.028).
In contrast, its shortest route from Rome – Nice, just 287 miles (467km) away – was available for €45.59. While not much and half the price of easyJet, its fare-per-mile was €0.159 ($0.15), obviously partly influenced by distance.
As Rome-Dammam is brand-new and pricing is partly to grow demand meaningfully, it suggests not a huge number of seats were sold – at least in that direction. Indeed, the lowest fare to Rome on the first day was €306.84 ($275.19). Of course, funding from the ACP would help, likewise ancillary sales: in 2021, 56% of Wizz’s total revenue was from non-fares, according to the airline’s accounts.
Wizz Air’s current Saudi route network. Image: GCMap.
23 Saudi routes so far
Rome is just the beginning, with Vienna also starting this week. Its network thus far is as follows, ordered by start date. Most ULCCs, especially in Europe, revolve around route creation. Of Wizz Air’s initial 23 Saudi routes, 75% will face no head-to-head competition.
- Rome Fiumicino to Dammam: started September 28th; 2x weekly
- Vienna to Dammam: September 30th, 2x weekly
- Abu Dhabi to Dammam: October 31st, 4x weekly
- Milan Malpensa to Jeddah: December 3rd, 2x weekly
- Rome Fiumicino to Riyadh: December 6th, 2x weekly
- Vienna to Jeddah: December 14th, 2x weekly
- Vienna to Riyadh: December 15th, 2x weekly
- Bucharest to Riyadh: January 9th, 2x weekly
- Budapest to Riyadh: January 9th, 2x weekly
- Bucharest to Jeddah: January 10th, 2x weekly
- Budapest to Jeddah: January 10th, 2x weekly
- Rome Fiumicino to Jeddah: January 11th, 2x weekly
- Larnaca to Riyadh: April 17th, 1x weekly
- Venice Marco Polo to Jeddah: April 18th, 2x weekly
- Catania to Riyadh: April 18th, 2x weekly
- Naples to Riyadh: April 18th, 1x weekly
- Budapest to Dammam: April 20th, 2x weekly
- Milan Malpensa to Riyadh: April 20th, 2x weekly
- Sofia to Riyadh: April 20th, 2x weekly
- Venice Marco Polo to Riyadh: April 20th, 2x weekly
- Tirana to Dammam: April 23rd, 2x weekly
- Larnaca to Dammam: July 4th, 1x weekly
- Larnaca to Jeddah: July 8th, 1x weekly
What’s your take on it all? Let us know in the comments.