Saudi Arabia – India bilateral increases 78% to 50,000 weekly seats

The bilateral between India and Saudi Arabia has loosened. The new limit will now be 50,000 weekly seats – up from 28,000.  A 78% rise. It’ll be phased in over three years, with an initial increase to 36,000.

India – Saudi Arabia is large, with an estimated 5.3 million passengers in the 12 months to October 2019.  It’s a market of pilgrims, labourers, and VFR generally.  This 5.3 million is down 12% YOY from Jet Airways’ collapse, which, of course, has offered opportunities, especially for LCCs.

India - Saudi Arabia routes in W19

India – Saudi Arabia routes in W19. Source: OAG Mapper.

The impact of the bilateral restriction is clear.  Of these 5.3 million, only 2 million – or 38% – flew non-stop in this period.  Of course, this is just one contributing factor, and the loosened bilateral will still be restrictive.  (Surprisingly, the number-one connecting hub between the two was not Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha – but Muscat, with almost 500,000 passengers.)

LCCs now have 1.1 million seats

The end of Jet Airways – even before the adapted bilateral – offered good opportunities.  Indeed, 2019 is the year for LCCs between the two countries, with 1.1 million seats – against 260,000 in 2018, the previous highest. This is mainly from SpiceJet and, to a lesser degree, IndiGo and Air India Express.  In W19, SpiceJet and IndiGo both have five routes to Saudi Arabia, and Air India Express four.  SpiceJet and IndiGo focus on Mumbai and Delhi.  Not just for P2P demand volume, but crucially for their onward connections across India.

Opportunities from the loosened bilateral

Here are Saudi Arabia – India’s top-10 routes by absolute indirect passengers in the year to October 2019. They exclude routes that are no longer served.  These 10 have more indirect passengers than non-stop, with an average of 59% of passengers travelling indirectly. The fact that these 10 have only ~1.9 million total passengers, against 5.3 million in all, clearly shows the depth of the market.

Route Indirect passengers Total passengers % indirect Comments
Kozhikode – Jeddah 197,100 338,400 58% SpiceJet 2019
Delhi – Riyadh 135,200 241,800 56% IndiGo and flynas in 2019
Mumbai – Jeddah 107,300 337,300 32% IndiGo and SpiceJet in 2019
Delhi – Jeddah 93,900 255,400 37% IndiGo and SpiceJet in 2019
Dammam – Delhi 84,700 123,800 68%  
Hyderabad – Riyadh 81,400 168,200 48%  
Kochi – Riyadh 70,500 133,300 53%  
Riyadh – Trivandrum 67,300 99,100 68%  
Lucknow – Riyadh 66,300 107,600 62% flynas in 2019
Chennai – Riyadh 64,900 90,000 72%  
  968,600 1,894,900 55%  
Source: OAG Traffic Analyser.

And here are the top-10 unserved routes between the two, totalling 769,000. Dammam features prominently as a result of not being backfilled by others.  Perhaps the loosened bilateral will enable its development, as well as more to Jeddah and Riyadh.

Route Total passengers Comments
Dammam – Trivandrum 123,500 Was served by Jet Airways
Dammam – Kochi 122,200 Was served by Jet Airways
Dammam -Mumbai 121,700 Was served by Jet Airways. IndiGo announced this route to start in 2019, but it is no longer available
Dammam – Hyderabad 102,200 Was served by Jet Airways
Dammam – Chennai 77,700  
Jeddah – Kolkata 64,100  
Jeddah – Trivandrum 52,300 Saudia operated this, but it ended in January 2019
Kolkata – Riyadh 40,000  
Dammam – Kolkata 33,400  
Bangalore -Dammam 32,100  
Source: OAG Traffic Analyser


  1. B N Biswas says:

    The unserved routes between Kolkata-Riyadh, Kolkata-Damman and Kolkata-Muscat need immediate attention and some direct connectivity. Hope either Saudia or Oman Air would commence direct services very soon.

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