State-run Saudia, the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, has secured funding for its massive fleet expansion plans. The addition of 73 new aircraft in the next three years will mark a cornerstone of Saudi Arabia’s plan to welcome millions of tourists from around the globe.
Saudia Fleet Expansion
In the largest financing deal in Saudi aviation history, Saudia has raised SAR 11.2 billion (USD 3 billion) to fund its aircraft expansion program. The public-private partnership includes six Saudi banks and provides the liquid capital necessary to pay for the previously-announced aircraft order, including:
- 20 Airbus A321neo
- 15 Airbus A321XLR
- 30 Airbus A320neo (for flyadeal, Saudia’s low cost subsidiary)
- 8 Boeing 787-10
Thus far, only five Boeing 787-10s have been delivered (these planes have a two-cabin configuration with 333 economy class seats and 24 lie-flat seats in business class in a reverse-herringbone configuration).
Delivery of the remaining aircraft is expected by mid 2024.
Plans For A Transformed Saudi Arabia
When I traveled to Saudi Arabia for the first time less than a decade ago, it was extremely difficult to enter. I was initially denied for a visa, but eventually secured a transit visa.
> Read More: How to Obtain a Saudi Arabian Transit Visa
Inside the Kingdom, women could not drive, restaurants had gender-segregated entrances and dining rooms, and the entire country felt unwelcoming to tourists (though I found the Saudi people quite hospitable).
But much as changed over the last few years and Saudi Arabia has revealed plans to create its own version of Dubai or Abu Dhabi in hopes of welcoming over 100 million tourists per year. The proposed development in northwest Saudi Arabia would span 10,000-square-mile (33 times bigger than New York City) and aims to attract business and industry from around the world. The city would be run on renewable energy and robotics (more details here).
By creating an oasis in the desert, Saudi Arabia hopes to generate substantial employment opportunities and significantly lessen its economic reliance on oil. But new hotels, restaurants, and office towers alone will not be enough. A flow of foreign investments will be contingent upon air connectivity and enhanced opportunities to significantly improve air travel.
This latest funding lays the groundwork to handle a surge of inbound and outbound passengers.
Saudi Arabian Airlines Corporation is now fully prepared and well-positioned to embark upon its ambitious aircraft acquisition program thanks to a fresh wave of funding. Saudia currently has a fleet of 157 aircraft (including cargo jets) and its new aircraft order will not simply replace older jets, but greatly expand the fleet.
With significantly improved air connectivity in the Kingdom, the dreams of economic diversification and attracting tourism are now one step closer.
What are your thoughts on the Saudia fleet expansion? Are you willing to visit or connecting in KSA?