​Saudia Group agrees largest aircraft purchase in the Kingdom with Airbus

This agreement is key to the development of the Vision 2030 initiative 
Avión de pasajeros Boeing 787 Dreamliner de Saudi Arabian Airlines - Nicolas Economou / NurPhoto / NurPhoto vía AFP
Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger aircraft - Nicolas Economou / NurPhoto / NurPhoto via AFP

Saudia Group, owner of Saudia Airlines and flyadeal, has reached an agreement with Airbus to purchase 105 aircraft valued at 19 billion dollars. The purchase, announced at the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh by Ibrahim Al-Omar, the group's CEO, is the largest order in the Kingdom's history. 

The deal includes A320neo and A321neo models, which will be distributed between Saudia and flyadeal, the group's low-cost airline. Saudia will acquire 54 A321neo aircraft, while flyadeal will receive 12 A320neo and 39 A321neo aircraft. The group is scheduled to take delivery of the first aircraft in the first quarter of 2026. 

The agreement was announced in the presence of the Minister of Transport and Logistics Services, Saleh bin Nasser AI-Jasser, and Benoît de Saint-Exupéry, Airbus Executive Vice President Sales.

Al-Omar, the group's leader, revealed that Saudia has "ambitious targets to meet growing demand". "We are increasing flights and seat capacity at our more than 100 existing destinations on four continents, with plans for further expansion," he said, according to Arab News.  

The Saudia Group CEO linked the deal to Saudi Vision 2030, an initiative that is attracting a significant number of tourists, businessmen and pilgrims to holy sites each year. "This motivated our decision to secure this important agreement, which will create jobs, increase local content and contribute to the national economy," he said.   

Al-Omar also confirmed that 88 new aircraft will be added to the fleet over the next five years. "We promise a new business class experience based on privacy and new product innovation," he added. The first aircraft equipped with new seats is expected to be ready by the end of 2025.  

For his part, de Saint-Exupéry said the new aircraft will play a "vital role" in contributing to Saudi Arabia's ambitious Vision 2030 plan. "It will enable the Saudia Group's strategy to advance the Kingdom's aviation capabilities and benefit from the exceptional efficiency, superior economics, higher level of passenger comfort and lower fuel consumption and emissions of the A320neo family." 

From the fourth quarter of 2024, Saudi Airlines will begin offering fast, high-quality internet services on its flights. In addition, the airline will equip its aircraft with high-resolution Bluetooth-enabled displays compatible with most smart devices. This upgrade will be implemented on both new and existing aircraft. 

Arabia Saudita y delegados extranjeros asisten al Foro de Aviación del Futuro en Riad el 20 de mayo de 2024 - Foto de Fayez Nureldine / AFP
Saudi Arabia and foreign delegates attend the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh on 20 May 2024 - Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP

"This agreement will pave the way to achieving the objectives of the National Transport and Logistics Strategy and contribute to improving Saudia's operational performance, increasing flights and seat capacity and launching new destinations," minister Al-Jasser tweeted.  

"It aims to connect the world to the Kingdom in line with the major transformation witnessed by the aviation sector under Vision 2030, while reaffirming our commitment to providing the best services that enhance the travel experience," he added.  

This agreement is key to Vision 2030 as one of the goals of this initiative is to increase guest capacity to 330 million, expand destinations to 250 by 2030 and attract 150 million visits by 2030. This is in addition to Hajj and Umrah's goal to contribute to increasing pilgrim capacity to 30 million by that year. 

Un hombre saudí pasa junto al logotipo de Visión 2030 - PHOTO/REUTERS -
A Saudi man walks past the Vision 2030 logo - PHOTO/REUTERS

Moreover, the agreement also meets Vision 2030's renewable targets, as the A320 family aircraft are fuel efficient. They emit 20% less carbon emissions compared to previous generation aircraft. 

The boost to Saudia's fleet is directly linked to the growth of the Kingdom's second airline, Riyadh Air, backed by the Public Investment Fund. 

The carrier, announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March 2023, ordered 39 Boeing 787-9 aircraft last year, with options for 33 more. Riyadh Air will make its inaugural flight in 2025 and establish routes to 100 countries by the end of the decade. 

AFP/ FAYEZ NURELDINE - Mohammed Bin Salman anunció su plan de reforma económica conocido como Visión 2030
Mohammed Bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince - AFP/ FAYEZ NURELDINE

Saudi Arabia's ambitions in the aviation sector have been set out in a new roadmap detailing how the Kingdom plans to turn it into a 2 billion dollar industry. 

This includes focusing on business jets, including charter, private and corporate aircraft, and supporting the development of Saudi Arabia as a high-value global tourism and business destination.