A suspected drone attack on Abha Airport in Saudi Arabia has left an Airbus A320 with a gaping hole in its side. The Airbus was on lease to young Saudi low-cost airline flyadeal, and was one of only 12 aircraft in its fleet. As such, the ambitious airline will sorely miss its capacity while, and if, it is being repaired.
Drone attack engulfs A320 in flames
An aircraft belonging to Middle East airline flyadeal has been seriously damaged in a drone attack on a Saudi Arabian airport. Abha regional airport, which sits around 75 miles from the border with Yemen, was struck by a drone earlier today, leaving the Airbus A320 engulfed in flames.
The fire seems to have been brought under control relatively quickly, with no significant damage to the plane from the blaze. However, images circulating on social media show a large hole in the aircraft’s fuselage.
Flyadeal Airbus A320 (HZ-FAB, built 2017) was badly damaged while parked at Abha Airport (OEAB), Saudi Arabia. The airfield came under a drone attack, controlled by Houthi forces. @HavaSosyalMedya pic.twitter.com/JYkxnm59UV
— JACDEC (@JacdecNew) February 10, 2021
According to data at FlightRadar24.com, the A320 on the ground at the time of the attack was HZ-FAB, a 3.5-year-old A320-200 on lease to flyadeal. Named Suhail, the aircraft was delivered to the airline new in September 2017.
The narrowbody had been previously flying multiple short-haul services a day, connecting destinations including Jeddah, Dammam, Riyadh and Tabuk. Most recently it flew into Abha from Dammam this morning, arriving at AHB at 12:30 local time. Judging by the damage visible on the images, it won’t be flying again for some time.
Rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the attack. The Iran-aligned Houthi group said four drones were used in the attack, which was launched in retaliation for airstrikes and other actions in Yemen.
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Consequences for flyadeal
The damage to the aircraft is likely to throw off flyadeal’s plans for the coming summer season. The airline, launched only three years ago, has high hopes for expansion in the near future.
Already it is the second-largest domestic carrier in Saudi Arabia. Speaking today at CAPA Live, CEO Con Korfiatis noted that the airline has experienced excellent growth, even during the pandemic, and was setting its sights on international operations sometime later this year. He said,
“Today as we stand with 12 aircraft, we took our first NEO last year, we’re about to reach a 10 million passenger milestone in terms of the number of people we’ve carried. We still are a domestic operator, but we do have designs on being international sometime this year.
“We’ve become in that timeframe the second-largest airline domestically, which really for the period we’ve been around is really quite an amazing feat.”
While having one aircraft out of action for a larger airline is an easy issue to absorb, with a fleet of only 12, flyadeal is going to miss its capacity dearly. In the last 12 months, according to data at RadarBox.com, HZ-FAB has operated 1,441 flights, and is averaging 128 hours of utilization per month.
It remains to be seen if the aircraft can be repaired and put back into service for the ambitious low-cost airline.