Saudi Arabia’s Sama ceases services; 70% of network was allocated to international flights to eight cities

Saudi Arabia’s Sama ceases services

Right now, this is about the best way of getting airbourne: After a brave and enterprising three-and-a-half years, the Saudi Arabian LCC advises visitors to its website that operations are suspended.

According to the airline’s homepage, Saudi Arabian LCC Sama ceased flying at the end of Monday 23 August, although it hopes this may only be a temporary state of affairs. Back in early 2007, there was a race to see which would be the first low-cost airline based in Saudi Arabia to start commercial operations. In the end, Nas Air (17 February) beat Sama (18 March) by just over a month. Initially obliged to operate from a main base in Dammam (Saudi Arabia’s third-busiest airport after Riyadh and Jeddah), the carrier launched domestic flights using 737-300s. When first analysed Sama back in August 2007 it was operating four 737s (all based in Dammam) and was flying purely domestic routes.

During the last three years, the focus has changed significantly towards international routes once the airline was permitted to operate them. As of last week, the airline’s network consisted of 16 routes, of which only three were domestic. In the intervening period, the airline’s fleet has grown to just six aircraft, although initial presentations indicated plans to have a fleet of 35 aircraft by 2010.

Serving eight international destinations in six countries

As of last week, the airline’s 13 international routes served eight destinations in six countries. There were 31 weekly international departures from Jeddah and a further 21 from Riyadh. There were no international routes from Dammam.

Country Jeddah (WF) Riyadh (WF)
Syria Aleppo (4)
Damascus (7)
Aleppo (4)
Damascus (4)
Jordan Amman (3)
Egypt Assiut (3)
Alexandria HBE (7)
Assiut (3)
Alexandria HBE (4)
Lebanon Beirut (3) Beirut (3)
Sudan Khartoum (3)
UAE Sharjah (4)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 2 August 2010
WF: Weekly Frequency

These international routes accounted for almost 70% of the airline’s weekly seat capacity, with Syria (19 weekly departures) and Egypt (17 weekly departures) being the two biggest country markets. Apart from these current routes, the airline also served several other international destinations at some point during the past three years. These included Abu Dhabi (UAE), Latakia (Syria), Mumbai (India), Sharjah (UAE) and Sharm El-Sheikh (Egypt).

As part of its legal obligation to operate some Public Service Obligation (PSO) routes within Saudi Arabia, the carrier also flew a 29-seat British Aerospace Jetstream J41 at one time on several routes from Hail.


  1. Hani says:

    A sad but expected move.

    ZS was never really in the market nor was it one of my favorites. It’s weird flying times and lack of domestic flights (even for between main airports) were always disappointing. I flew with them 3 or 4 times back in 2007 when things looked prettier.

    The lack of a proper healthy competitive aviation spirit and authority in Saudi Arabia has plagued the airline and our hopes of seeing commercial aviation growth. Nasair which is doing much better and have a more solid presence is not fully out of the woods.

    Sad.. I was really hoping for SAMA to turn things back around and see that smart Mosaic livery in the air with more 737NG.

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