Saudi’s pilgrimage airline plans to go public within 2-3 years


JEDDAH – Saudi Arabia’s first airline for pilgrims Alwafeer Air plans to hold an initial public offering within the next three years, its top official said on Saturday.

“We intend to have an IPO, God willing, in two to three year,” Chief Executive Adnan Dabbagh said in an interview.

The Jeddah-based airline, the kingdom’s fourth after state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines and low budget carriers Nas Air and Sama, obtained an operating license on October 4 and is expected to start flying during the haj season in November.

The carrier has leased three Boeing 747 aircrafts from Malaysian Airline Systems for the next six years and may expand its fleet to eight planes in the next three years.

The fleet expansion would depend on the market in 2010, Dabbagh said.

Alwafeer plans to transport pilgrims from Muslim countries to Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina.

“We expect to carry about 50,000 haj pilgrims this year,” said Dabbagh, who added that their current fleet is capable of transporting up to 250,000 pilgrims.

More than two million pilgrims flock to Saudi Arabia for the annual haj pilgrimage.

Around 1.5 million of them come to Saudi Arabia by plane, Dabbagh said, while the rest come by car or by boat.

Alwafeer is owned by Saudi companies including the Bin Laden Group and the Naghi Group.

For 2010 the new airline is planning to transport passengers from countries including Pakistan, India, Egypt, Turkey, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, even Germany and France, which have large Muslim populations.

“Truthfully, all Islamic countries and all countries in the world where Muslims exist are in our radar scope,” Dabbagh said.