Fly Red Sea operates a fleet of cutting-edge seaplanes, designed to transport tourists to water-based resorts in Saudi Arabia’s new Red Sea destination. Gemma Harris reports

Saudi developer Red Sea Global has launched the first seaplane company to operate within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Taking off in October 2023, Fly Red Sea, has started operations with an initial fleet of four Cessna Caravan 208 seaplanes managed by aviation specialists.

Each seaplane, complete with “boutique luxury” interiors, can accommodate six passengers and their luggage for hotel resort transfers, or up to nine guests for scenic tours.

Powered by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), the aircraft transport guests to new water-based resorts such as the St Regis Red Sea Resort and Nujuma, A Ritz Carlton Reserve (both opening at the end of 2023).

Reflecting the Red Sea Group’s commitment to sustainability, this subsidiary company is also exploring the possibility of integrating fully electric seaplanes. Fly Red Sea is also working with ZeroAvia to conduct trials to retrofit the aircraft with hydrogen-electric propulsion technologies.

The Red Sea Group has committed to creating opportunities for local talent. Fly Red Sea focuses on employing local expertise, with the first Saudi seaplane captain’s license issued to the company and the first seaplane-specific engineers now hired at the destination.

John Pagano, group CEO of Red Sea Global, says: “As a pilot myself, I was deeply invested in the efforts to build Fly Red Sea. Our goal was to create a company that would allow us to maintain high standards across every guest touchpoint, that would give us the platform to explore technologies to reduce the aviation industry’s carbon footprint and would prioritise giving skilled, rewarding career opportunities to the Saudi people. Fly Red Sea achieves this on every level.”

The company will operate from the Red Sea International airport as its home base, which has a dedicated seaplane runway. It will eventually have a dedicated seaplane terminal as well. After receiving its first flights last month, this new airport is now fully operational.

The airport has been developed to serve the Red Sea Development and Amaala tourism megaprojects, with the first two hotels now taking bookings. Future plans will include a dedicated seaplane terminal.

The initial Fly Red Sea fleet is set to expand in tandem with the destination’s development phases, forecasting nine seaplanes in operation by 2028 and more than 20 by 2030. On completion in 2030, there will be 50 resorts, offering up to 8,000 hotel rooms and more than 1,000 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites.