By Zach Cooke
New Saudi Arabian Flag Carrier Orders All Boeing Fleet
Earlier this week, Boeing announced that Riyadh Air — the new Saudi Arabian flag carrier — would order 39 Boeing 787 Dreamliners with options for 33 more of the 787-9 variant . This announcement came at the same time flag carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines, SAUDIA, also placed an order for 39 787 Dreamliners, with options for an additional 10. That order will be broken down between -9s and -10s produced by Boeing in South Carolina and Washington. The combined orders totaled to become the fifth-largest commercial aircraft order concerning value in Boeing’s history.
This past weekend, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz — Prime Minister and Chairman of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) — announced the launch of Riyadh Air to the public. The airline was in talks with Airbus and Boeing, choosing the latter to build its fleet and launch its operations. The carrier will be wholly owned by the PIF of Saudi Arabia and will be based in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia. The overarching goal of the new gulf-based airline is to connect the world and grow Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry with 100 destinations by 2030.
One of the ambitions for Riyadh Air is to go head to head with other gulf carriers, such as Emirates, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines, who have far-flung route structures stretching across the globe. Currently, SAUDIA — also state-owned — connects portions of the world, although not on the level of the other three. The airline operates to three destinations in North America: New York, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Emirates and Qatar Airways both operate 13 routes to North American airports, and Turkish Airlines offers service to 15.
Riyadh Air’s CEO, Tony Douglas, stated that the airline will compete with the other gulf carriers by, “shaping the future of global air travel and be a true disrupter in terms of customer experience.” It is currently unclear if the airline will connect passengers with SAUDIA, who is a part of the Sky Team alliance and is based in Jeddah.
With a range of 7,565 nautical miles, the 787-9s will allow the Riyadh-based carrier to operate to distant cities such as Perth, Australia; Chicago, Rio De Janeiro and Tokyo . However, it is currently unclear which cities the carrier will launch and operate to with its fleet.
On Feb. 23, the FAA halted 787 Dreamliner deliveries after a data analysis error related to the forward pressure bulkhead was discovered. This portion of the aircraft helps keep the 787 pressurized in flight. The error was reconciled by Boeing to the FAA’s satisfaction and deliveries were cleared to resume this week. This recent delay shouldn’t have an impact on recent orders placed by the two airlines. The Virginia-based manufacturer is off to a strong start, with this recent announcement from Riyadh Air and Saudia, along with other carriers totaling over 300 orders and 100 options placed so far this year.