Following this week’s blockbuster order from Riyadh Air and SAUDIA, we ask the following question: Has Airbus missed out on the Saudi Arabia market?
In this piece, we will recap the blockbuster order made under the Public Investment Fund, as well as whether there is any potential for Airbus orders down the line.
Without further ado, let’s get into it…
Boeing Steals The Limelight from Airbus in Saudi Arabia…
Airline manufacturer Boeing jointly announced the news of two major purchases of 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft to be allocated in the Saudi Arabia region.
The new Saudi carrier Riyadh Air will commence operations with an all-Boeing fleet, following an order for 39 Dreamliners with an option for 33 more.
In addition, the Saudi Arabia national flag carrier SAUDIA is now set to grow its long-haul fleet with up to 49 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.
The airline has placed an order for 39 of the Boeing wide-body aircraft, with an option for 10 additional aircraft.
Owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), Riyadh Air has disclosed that it will purchase 39 787-9s, with options for an additional 33 787-9s.
Based in the capital city, Riyadh Air will play a key role in growing Saudi Arabia’s overall air transport network.
“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 customer experience,” said Tony Douglas, CEO of Riyadh Air.
The national flag carrier SAUDIA currently operates more than 50 Boeing airplanes on its long-haul network, including the 777-300ER (Extended Range) as well as the 787-9 and 787-10 Dreamliner.
This week’s order disclosure will see the flag carrier expand its fleet with 39 Dreamliners, with an option for 10 more, which will contribute to Saudi Arabia’s overall growth plan under the public investment fund.
These additional 787s will complement SAUDIA’s existing fleet, enabling it to effectively harness the value of the Boeing 777 and 787 families.
“SAUDIA continues its expansion efforts in all aspects of the airline; whether it’s introducing new destinations or increasing the aircraft fleet,” said His Excellency Engr. Ibrahim Al-Omar, Director General of SAUDIA Group.
Are They Missing Out on this Market?
The answer to this question is not from the narrowbody perspective. For those that may not remember, back in the Paris Air Show in 2019, SAUDIA placed an order for up to 100 NEO aircraft.
This came following an additional order of which 15 of the aircraft would convert into A321XLRs for long-haul travel.
From a long-haul perspective, this has effectively been covered by Boeing, so SAUDIA has got its plans now set for 250 aircraft by 2030.
On the Riyadh Air side, the high level of Dreamliners ordered does partly exclude Airbus from securing a long-haul order on the A350 or A330neo, but this is dependent on whether Riyadh Air wishes to run a single widebody fleet only.
It ultimately depends on the destination coverage spread from its base in Saudi Arabia.
That being said, there hasn’t been an order placed by Riyadh Air on the narrowbody side of operations, which is still up for grabs by Airbus.
It remains clear that from the widebody perspective, Airbus has lost the battle in Saudi Arabia, but there could be some room for a fight from the narrowbody perspective.
With SAUDIA already set to receive aircraft from the European planemaker, the focus now needs to shift to Riyadh Air to see if it is interested in acquiring narrowbodies.
That being said, it could be fair to say there could be some movement on this by the Paris Air Show, especially with the planemaker wanting to improve its sales stature post-Farnborough, where Boeing dominated significantly.
Either way, it is all to play for, and it will be interesting to see if Riyadh Air would consider an Airbus narrowbody order going into the future.