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Saudi Arabian Airlines
Founded 1945
Frequent flyer program Alfursan
Fleet size 126 (+50 orders)
Destinations 76
Company slogan A New Era...
Parent company Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Headquarters Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Key people HRH Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz (CEO)
Khalid Abdullah Almolhem (Director General)
A Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747-300 at Juanda International Airport, Surabaya, Indonesia, refueling and reloading particularly to serve Indonesian Hajj pilgrims to Mecca. (2008)

Saudi Arabian Airlines (Arabic: الخطوط الجوية العربية السعوديةAl-Khuṭūṭ al-Jawwiyyah al-ʿArabiyyah al-Saʿūdiyyah ) is the national airline of Saudi Arabia, based in Jeddah. It operates domestic and international scheduled flights to over 70 destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Domestic and international charter flights are operated, mostly during Ramadan and the Hajj season. The airline's main operational base is at Jeddah-King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED). Other major hubs are Riyadh-King Khalid International Airport (RUH), and Dammam-King Fahd International Airport (DMM). The new Dammam airport was opened for commercial use on 28 November 1999. Dhahran International Airport in use until then, has reverted to being used as a military base. Saudi Arabian Airlines is a member of the Arab Air Carriers Organization. The airline used to be the largest carrier in the region, but because of the growth of other airports and airlines has become the second largest in 2006, behind Emirates Airline.



When US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt presented a Douglas DC-3 as a gift to King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud in 1945, the event marked the Kingdom's gradual development of civil aviation. The nation's flag carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines was founded in September 1946 as a fully owned government agency under the control of the Ministry of Defense, with TWA running the airline under a management contract.

From the beginning, Jeddah-Kandara airport - very near the town centre - served as the flag carrier's main base. Among the airline's early operations was a special flight from Lydda in Palestine (today Lod in Israel, site of Ben-Gurion International Airport), a British Mandate at that time, to carry Hajj pilgrims to Jeddah. The airline used five DC-3 aircraft to launch scheduled operations on the Jeddah-Riyadh-Hofuf-Dhahran route in March 1947, followed by its first international service between Jeddah and Cairo also in that same month. Service to Damascus and Beirut followed in early 1948.

In 1949, the first of five Bristol 170s was received. These aircraft offered the airline the flexibility of carrying both passengers and cargo.

The slow but steady growth continued during the 1950s and services were inaugurated to Istanbul, Karachi, Amman, Kuwait City, Asmara, and Port Sudan. The fleet also saw a small growth during the 1950s, with five DC-4s and ten Convair 340s, the first pressurized aircraft for the airline. In 1959, the airline's first maintenance center was inaugurated in Jeddah. Also during this decade, the very important air link between Jeddah and Riyadh saw improved.

Saudi Arabian Airlines's headquarters in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia. (2009)

In 1962, the airline took delivery of two Boeing 720s, making history by becoming the second Middle Eastern airline to fly jets (Cyprus Airways was the first one with de Havilland Comet). On 19 February 1963, the airline became a registered company, with King Faisal of Saudi Arabia signing the papers that declared Saudi Arabian a fully independent company. DC-6s and Boeing 707s were later bought, and the airline joined AACO, the Arab Air Carriers Organization. Services were started to Sharjah, Tehran, Khartoum, Bombay, Tripoli, Tunis, Rabat, Geneva, Frankfurt, and London.

In the 1970s, a new livery was introduced. The carrier's name was changed to Saudia on 1 April 1972. Boeing 737 and Boeing 747 equipment was bought, with the 737s replacing the Douglas DC-9. The first all-cargo flights between Saudi Arabia and Europe were started, and Lockheed L-1011s and Fairchild FH-27s were introduced. New services, including the Arabian Express 'no reservation shuttle flights' between Jeddah and Riyadh. The Special Flight Services (SFS) was set up as a special unit of Saudia, and operates special flights for the Royal family and government agencies. Service was also started to Rome, Paris, Muscat, Kano, and Stockholm. The Pan Am / Saudia joint service between Dhahran and New York City started on 3 February 1979.

Some services opened during the 1980s for the airline, such as Saudia Catering. Flights were started to Athens, Bangkok, Dhaka, Mogadishu, Nairobi, New York City, Madrid, Singapore City, Manila, Delhi, Islamabad, Seoul, Baghdad, Amsterdam, Colombo, Nice, Lahore, Brussels, Dakar, Kuala Lumpur and Taipei. Horizon Class, a business class service, was established to offer enhanced service to passengers. Cargo hubs were built at Brussels and Taipei. Airbus A300s, Fokker F-28s, and Cessna Citations were also added to the fleet, the Citations for the SFS service. To finish the decade, services were introduced in 1989 to Larnaca and Addis Ababa.

In the 1990s, services were introduced to Orlando, Chennai, Asmara, Washington, D.C., Johannesburg, Alexandria, Milan, Málaga (seasonal), and Sanaa (resumption). Boeing 777s, McDonnell Douglas MD-90s and McDonnell-Douglas MD-11s were introduced. New female flight attendant uniforms designed by Adnan Akbar were introduced. A new corporate identity was launched on 16 July 1996, featuring a sand coloured fuselage with contrasting dark blue tailfin, the centre of which featured a stylised representation of the House of Saud crest. The Saudia name was dropped in the identity revamp, with Saudi Arabian Airlines name used.

On 8 October 2000, Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the Saudi Minister of Defence & Aviation, signed a contract to conduct studies for the privatisation of Saudi Arabian Airlines. In preparation for this, the airline was restructured to allow non-core units—including Saudia catering, ground handling services and maintenance as well as the Prince Sultan Flight Academy in Jeddah—to be transformed into commercial units and profit centres. In April 2005, the Saudi government indicated that the airline may also lose its monopoly on domestic services.[1]

Saudi Arabian Airlines did achieve operational profits in 2002, which doubled in 2003, but the profits were primarily due to over one billion riyals on deferred income amortised annually in the income statement, courtesy of the 70 aircraft gifted to the airline by the Saudi government. In 2004, the airline carried over 15 million passengers and recorded a 14% rise in profits.

The airline ordered 15 Embraer E-170LR aircraft in a deal worth $400 million in April 2005. They are to be based at Abha in the south and at Hail in the north.


In 2006 Saudi Airlines began the process, dividing itself into Strategic Business Units (SBU); the catering unit was the first to be privatized.[2] In August 2007, Saudi Arabia's Council of Ministers approved the conversion of strategic units into companies. It is planned that ground services, technical services, air cargo and the Prince Sultan Aviation Academy, as well as the catering unit, will become subsidiaries of a holding company.[3]




Saudi Arabian Airlines operates the following aircraft (at 11 December 2009):[4]

Saudi Arabian Airlines
Aircraft In
Orders Passengers
Routes Notes
Airbus A300B4-605R 5 0 315 (0/0/315)
317 (0/0/317)
Short-medium haul Operated by Onur Air
Airbus A320-214 6 29 136 (Leased configuration) Short-medium haul
High-density routes from RUH[5]
Replacing: McDonnell Douglas MD-90-30
13 to be leased from ALAFCO[6][7]
Airbus A321-131 1 0 219 (0/0/219) Short-medium haul Operated by Onur Air
Airbus A321-231 2
0 178 (0/0/178)
219 (0/0/219)
Short-medium haul 2 operated by Atlas Jet
1 operated by Onur Air
Airbus A330-223 2 0 286 (0/26/260) Short-medium haul Operated by Atlas Jet
Airbus A330-343 0 8 TBD Short-long haul
Boeing 747-100B 3 0 444 (0/0/444) Short-medium haul Exit from service: 2010
Boeing 747-300 14 0 393 (36/38/319) Short-long haul 1 operated by Phuket Airlines
4 operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic
Boeing 747-400 6 0 358 (36/32/290) Short-long haul 2 operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic
Boeing 757-200 6 0 160
178 (0/0/178)
179 (0/0/179)
Short-medium haul Operated by Atlas Jet
2 operated by Astraeus
Boeing 777-200ER 23 0 244 (30/31/183) Short-long haul
Embraer E-170LR 15 0 66 (0/6/60) Short haul
McDonnell Douglas MD-90-30 28 0 121 (0/18/103) Short-medium haul To be phased out: Starting 2009
Replacement aircraft: Airbus A320
1 stored at JED
Largest operator of the McDonnell-Douglas MD-90
Saudi Arabian Airlines Cargo Fleet
Boeing 747-200F 3 0 Medium-long haul 2 operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic
Boeing 747-400BCF 2 0 Medium-long haul Operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic
Boeing 747-400F 1 0 Medium-long haul Operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic
McDonnell Douglas MD-11F 4 0 Medium-long haul
Saudi Arabian Royal Flight Fleet [8]
Boeing 747-300 1 0
Boeing 747-400 1 0 Stored at BSL
Boeing 747SP 3 0
Boeing 757-200 1 0 Fully equipped flying hospital
McDonnell Douglas MD-11 1 0
Total 129 49 Last updated: 11 December 2009

Other aircraft

A Saudi Arabian Airlines Gulfstream IV at Edinburgh Airport, Scotland. (2009)

Saudi Arabian Airlines Private Aviation operate the following

A number of military C-130s are painted with the Saudi colors and are flown by Royal Saudi Air Force crews to support Saudi official activities in the region and Europe.

The average age of the fleet is 12.8 years as of February 2007, with some of the current aircraft being more than 30 years old.[9]

Codeshare agreements

A Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747-300 taxiing at Singapore Changi Airport, Singapore. (2007)

Saudi Arabian Airlines has codeshare agreements with the following airlines:

In-flight services

The in-flight magazine of Saudi Arabian Airlines is called Ahlan Wasahlan (Arabic: هلاً وسهلاً‎ "Hello and Welcome"). No alcohol is served on board.

Incidents and accidents

  • On 25 September 1959, a Saudi Arabian Airlines Douglas DC-5 crashed shortly after take-off from Jeddah. The cause of the accident was pilot error followed by a stall. All 67 passengers and 5 crew survived.[10]
  • On 23 December 1980, a tyre on a Saudi Arabian L-1011 exploded, penetrating the passenger cabin. The hole sucked out two passengers and depressurized the cabin. [11]
  • In 23 August 2001, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia,[12] a Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747-368 aircraft (Registration HZ-AIO) suffered nose damage as it entered a monsoon drainage ditch while it was being taxied from the hangar to the gate before a return flight to Saudi Arabia. None of the six crew members on board at the time were injured.
  • On 8 September 2005, a Saudi Arabian Boeing 747 travelling from Colombo to Jeddah, carrying mostly Sri Lankan nationals to take up employment in the Kingdom, received a false alarm claiming that a bomb had been planted on board. The aircraft returned to Colombo and, during the evacuation, there was a passenger stampede in the wake of which one Sri Lankan woman died, 62 were injured, and 17 were hospitalized. The aircraft had taken on a load of 420 passengers in Colombo.[13]


  • In the middle 1990s, a DC-3 that used to fly for Saudi Arabian was re-decorated in the airline's early livery and flown back to Saudi Arabia.
  • The DC-3 that was delivered to Saudi Arabia's King in the 1940s is still kept, but not flown, by the airline. It sits on the runway by Saudi Arabian's terminal at Jeddah International Airport.
A 1980 Williams F1 car with the Saudia logo of that time
  • From 1978 to 1983 Saudia was the title sponsor of the Williams Formula One team, with the airline's colours appearing on the championship winning cars of Alan Jones (1980) and Keke Rosberg (1982).
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines, with Iran Air, are the only operators of the Boeing 747-100B
  • In the late 1970s, it was discovered that the lettering of "Saudia" formed a cross (resembling a Christian cross) between the "S" and the"a". The logo and lettering were subsequently redesigned. [1]

See also


External links

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