After a short delay, Saudi Arabian Airlines (or Saudia) has received its fifth Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner. The gleaming new plane was due to touch down in Jeddah on Monday, October 12, but a mechanical issue saw it towed back to Boeing’s workshop in Charleston. It was an inauspicious start for the new plane. However, it finally made it to Saudi Arabia a couple of days late, safe and sound.
Saudia 787-10 arrives in Jeddah, better late than never
Saudia confirmed the plane’s arrival into Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport on Wednesday, October 14. HZ-AR28 is the aircraft’s registration number. The flight headed out of Charleston on Tuesday evening, landing in Jeddah at lunchtime on Wednesday. The trip over the Atlantic was 11,366 km. Flying time was approximately 12 hours.
“There are more new aircraft that will arrive successively during the coming period within the historical program to modernize and increase the fleet and support it with the latest and best aircraft in the world to keep pace with the development and comprehensive and sustainable development programs that the country is witnessing in this prosperous era,” Director General of Saudi Arabian Airlines, Sami bin Ali Sindim, told Saudi news site Alkhaleejtoday.
According to Alkhaleejtoday, the Dreamliner was piloted by Messers Ali Al-Shehri, Khaled Bukhari, Saeed Al-Ghamdi, and Hazem Al-Abdali.
The reason for the initial delay at Charleston was undisclosed. However, Mark Finlay reported in Simple Flying earlier this month that the aircraft was out on an active taxiway in Charleston when it became “stranded.” After 45 minutes, a tug was sent out to pull the plane back into the hanger. Whatever this issue was, HZ-AR28 was on its way again within days.
The 787-10 in integral to Saudia’s modernization plans
Saudia now has five 787-10 Dreamliners. The aircraft are integral to Saudia’s fleet modernization and transformation program. The airline is waiting for a further eight 787-10 Dreamliners. The existing 787-10s will complement the 13 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners Saudia already operates.
In addition to flying some of the busier domestic sectors, the Saudia Dreamliners will fly to several of the airline’s international destinations, including ports in the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East region.
After declining somewhat and losing market share in the first half of the last decade, Saudia more recently embarked on an ambitious transformation program. That program involved pursuing growth and expanding its fleet. Saudia is chasing product improvements, cost reductions, and a successful multi-brand strategy.
Events of 2020 have clipped the airline’s wings. In March, Saudia suspended its international and domestic flights. Flights have resumed, but they are still below 2019 levels.
A small but welcome boost for Boeing
Meanwhile, the delivery is a welcome boost for Boeing and, in particular, the 787-10 program. Sales of this Dreamliner variant have lagged significantly behind the more popular 787-8 and 787-9 models.
As of September 30, only 59 Boeing 787-10s were in service worldwide, going to just a handful of customers. United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, and Air Lease Corporation are among the bigger 787-10 customers.
In contrast, Boeing has delivered 374 of its 787-8 planes and 555 of its 787-9 Dreamliners. While both types have been available for longer than the 787-10, that doesn’t explain the lack of airline interest in the Dreamliner family’s biggest plane.
That said, Saudia seems happy enough with its newest planes.
“Adding the 787-10 variant will further support future network growth plans,” said Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, Director General at Saudia.
The latest addition to the Saudia fleet is yet to start flying paying passengers. After arriving at Jeddah a fortnight ago, the plane remains on the ground there.
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