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Saudia Group in ‘landmark’ deal for 105 Airbus planes

RIYADH (AFP) – Saudi Arabia’s Saudia Group will buy 105 Airbus planes, the company said yesterday, hailing it as the biggest aircraft deal in the country’s history.

Saudia airline will receive 54 A321neo aircraft, while budget offshoot flyadeal will acquire 12 A320neo and 39 A321neo planes, a statement said.

“This landmark agreement encompasses 105 confirmed aircraft and marks a significant moment not only for the Saudi aviation industry but also for the wider MENA region,” it said. The purchase, described as “the largest aircraft deal in Saudi aviation history”, marks a further investment by Saudi airlines more than a year after new carrier Riyadh Air was unveiled.

Saudi authorities have also announced plans for a large new airport in the capital Riyadh capable of accommodating 120 million passengers a year.

Prior to the deal announced yesterday, Saudia had a fleet of 144 aircraft while flyadeal had 32 aircraft.

Vice president of fleet management and agreements Saleh Eid told AFP that deliveries would start in 2026 and continue until 2032. He declined to disclose the value of the deal.

Jeddah-based Saudia, also known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, dates to 1945 when it received its first jet, a gift from US president Franklin Roosevelt. The state-owned carrier is expected to increasingly concentrate its operations out of Jeddah once Riyadh Air begins its flights, a milestone expected next year.

Saudis and foreign delegates attend the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. PHOTO: AFP

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sees aviation as a key component of his “Vision 2030” reform agenda to remake the petroleum-centred economy, aiming to more than triple annual traffic to 330 million passengers by the end of the decade.

Vision 2030 “motivated our decision to secure this significant deal, which will create jobs, increase local content and contribute to the national economy”, Saudia Group director general Ibrahim Al-Omar said in the statement.

Last year Saudia announced a deal to buy 39 Dreamliner planes from Boeing with options for 10 more.

Riyadh Air, unveiled in March 2023, announced an agreement to buy 39 Boeing Dreamliners, with options for 33 more jets.

Saudi Arabia is also launching NEOM Airlines, to be based in the planned megacity.

The Saudis are moving into a crowded Gulf market.

Dubai, in the neighbouring United Arab Emirates, has Emirates, the Middle East’s biggest airline, and the world’s busiest airport by international passengers.

Qatar, another Gulf air hub, is expanding capacity at Hamad airport to 70 million people a year and increasing routes for Qatar Airways.

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