Saudi Arabia’s new national carrier signs bumper commitment for widebody jets
New Saudi Arabian operator Riyadh Air has placed what it dubs an “unprecedented order for a new carrier” after agreeing a multi-billion-dollar commitment for up to 72 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. The deal, announced on March 14, consists of 39 firm orders and options on a further 33 examples with deliveries scheduled to start in early 2025.
“The new airline reflects the ambitious vision of Saudi Arabia to be at the core of shaping the future of global air travel and be a true disrupter in terms of guest experience,” Riyadh Air’s CEO Tony Douglas explained. “Our commitment to our guests will see the integration of digital innovation and authentic Saudi hospitality to deliver a seamless travel experience. By positioning the airline as both a global connector and a vehicle to drive tourist and business travel to Saudi Arabia, our new 787-9 airplanes will serve as a foundation for our worldwide operations, as we build the wider network and connect our guests to Saudi Arabia and many destinations around the world.”
Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes added: “This is a significant order that will support Riyadh Air’s commitment to deliver a world-class travel experience, while supporting American aerospace manufacturing jobs at Boeing and across our supply chain. We are incredibly proud of our nearly eight decades of partnership to drive innovation and sustainable growth in Saudi Arabia’s aviation sector. Our agreement builds on that longstanding partnership and will further expand access to safe and sustainable commercial air travel for decades more.”
A new Gulf powerhouse?
The bumper Boeing deal came just days after Riyadh Air’s official launch. The “digitally led, full-service airline” is owned by Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and is a key element of Vision 2030, the oil-rich nation’s strategic plan to diversify its local economy – the carrier is expected to add $20 billion to non-oil GDP growth and create more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs – and establish the nation as a global aviation hub.
The airline plans to link its Riyadh base to more than 100 destinations around the world by the end of the decade, “leveraging Saudi Arabia’s strategic geographic location between the three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe,” to transform its home hub into “a gateway to the world and a global destination for transportation, trade, and tourism.”
Reflecting on its 787 order, Riyadh Air’s chairman and governor of the PIF, His Excellency Yasir Al-Rumayyan said: “This is a momentous day for us and highlights our determination to significantly extend Saudi Arabia’s connectivity with the world. Our stated commitment is to create a world-class airline and this partnership with Boeing in building the fleet is the next step in achieving the aspirations of Saudi Arabia as a global transportation hub. We look forward to fostering strong strategic relationships within the wider aviation ecosystem as we continue to shape the new airline to become one of the leading carriers around the world.”
Flying the flag
Riyadh Air’s order is part of a wider Saudi commitment for up to 121 Dreamliners – the fifth largest commercial deal by value in Boeing’s history – that will support the country’s goal of serving 330 million passengers and attracting 100 million visitors annually by 2030.
The deal also includes up to 49 787-9s and -10s for fellow national carrier Saudia (39 firm and ten options), bolstering a widebody fleet that already contains more than 50 Boeing widebodies including 777-300ERs and Dreamliners.
“We continue out expansion efforts in all aspects of the airline; whether it's introducing new destinations or increasing the aircraft fleet," His Excellency Engr. Ibrahim Al-Omar, Director General of Saudi Group remarked “The agreement with Boeing delivers on this commitment and the newly added aircraft will further enable us to fulfill our strategic objective of bringing the world to the Kingdom”.
Stan Deal concluded: “Adding to its 787 Dreamliner fleet will enable Saudia to expand its long-haul service with outstanding range, capacity, and efficiency. After more than 75 years of partnership, we are honoured by Saudia’s confidence in Boeing products and will continue to support Saudi Arabia's goal to expand sustainable air travel.”