Saudi Arabia and Airbus in Talks to Sign Huge A350 Deal – New Airline to be the Beneficiary

Photo Credit: Joris Wendt/AviationSource

LONDON – Regular readers of AviationSource News will have recently seen the coverage of what Saudi Arabia is currently planning to enable a massive shift in its aviation landscape.

Talks of targeting an annual passenger total of 80 million by 2035, they are currently upgrading airports in a bid to suit this. 

Manufacturer Boeing claimed that The Kingdom could be set to become a big player in the Middle Eastern aviation space over the next decade.

During this coverage, it noted that Saudi Arabia plans to create a new national carrier to support this growth, all of this captured under what is being called Vision 2030.

Today, further information is coming to light about the new airline. Set to launch operationally in quarter four of 2022, RIA is set to be the new carrier that will take to the skies in direct competition with established Middle Eastern carriers Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar. 

Due to being based out of Riyadh, RIA will join long-time national carrier Saudia, which is based out of Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport.

The 30 billion dollar finances behind all the reports come in the shape of the Public Investment Fund, one of the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world.

The fund was reborn under His Royal Highness Mohammad Bin Salman Al-Saud’s chairmanship and is looking to help move The Kingdom away from its reliance on oil alone. 

It appears RIA will be one of the main beneficiaries of the planned 100 billion dollars that the PIF plans to inject into the aviation sector over the next ten years in a bid to execute Vision 2030.

The new airline is set to be in experienced hands from the start. Arabian business outlets are reporting that outgoing Etihad Airways CEO Tony Douglas has said to have been approached for the Chief Executive Officer position at RIA.

As it diversifies its investments across a broad range of both sectors and countries, it has been reported over recent months that the fund has been locked in talks with both main aircraft manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing. 

Today news is emerging that this week’s Future Investment Initiative that is being held in Riyadh may see an announcement of a deal for up to 40 Airbus A350s.

The aircraft, valued at up to $365 million per unit depending on the variant, is one of the most efficient long-range wide-body aircraft on the market. 

Although unlikely to be paying the full list price for such a large order, collectively, it is valued at 12 billion US dollars. Airbus declined to comment on the talks, saying:

“We are always in talks with existing and potential customers, and the details of talks which may or may not be happening to remain confidential in any case” 

Given talks have been ongoing between Airbus and Boeing, it remains to be seen what share of orders the American-based manufacturer may see.

If reports are to be believed, tensions have risen between the pair over recent weeks due to Saudi Arabia’s decision to reduce oil production by up to 2 million barrels a day.

President Joe Biden said there may be consequences to their relationship as a result of these cuts.

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