Saudia is reportedly considering a massive aircraft order from both Airbus and Boeing. The carrier plans to buy 70 aircraft in total, including the A321, 777, and 787. To partially finance this massive order, Saudia is reportedly working with local banks to raise over $3bn.
According to local reports seen in Reuters, Saudia is planning to order 70 new planes from both Boeing and Airbus soon. While the exact aircraft models and order are currently unknown, we know that the carrier is looking at the A321 for narrowbodies and the 777 and 787 families for widebodies.
These reports only give us basic details but there are several possible order configurations for the Saudi Arabian flag carrier. The airline already operates all three of the types under consideration, keeping the fleet streamlined.
On the Airbus side, Saudia would be boosting its previous order for up to 100 A320neo family aircraft (65 firm orders and 35 options), including the A321neo and A321XLR. Another order exclusively for the A321neo or A321LR could signal higher demand for the more efficient narrowbodies and possibly faster delivery dates given deferred and canceled orders over the last year.
Notably, Saudia has a relatively young narrowbody fleet, according to Planespotters.net. Its 64 A320ceos are only 5.7 years old on average, while the A321ceos are 9.1 years old. However, with the A321neo now in service for a few years, now might be a good time to double down on fleet modernization.
On the Boeing side, Saudia has a similar relationship with the manufacturer. The carrier’s widebody fleet currently consists of the 777-300ER, 787-9, and 787-10. Considering the airline still has eight more 787-10s due for delivery, the order will be interesting.
Saudia may be considering an order for the new 777X to boost its capacity. The 777X would be Saudia’s largest aircraft to date and could boost it into a major hub airline in the region. Considering only a few classic 777s are left on order (making it an unlikely choice), the 777X could well be on the cards.
For the 787 order, it’s unclear which variant of the Dreamliner the airline is looking at. Already operating the two largest variants, the more versatile 787-9 is a stronger contender for the order. However, the 787-10 does work well for a regional expansion into regions like Europe and South Asia.
While it might seem like odd timing to place a multi-billion dollar order in the middle of a pandemic, there is logic to it. Considering the impact on aircraft makers in the last year, Saudia can expect steep discounts from Boeing and Airbus for new planes at this time. Secondly, the timing allows Saudia more flexibility on how fast it wants to take delivery of the new jets.
The carrier plans to take loans from local banks to the tune of 11.5 billion riyals ($3.07bn) to partially fund this new order. Considering the airline is state-owned, funding should not be a major hurdle for the airline. Keep an eye out for more details about what could be 2021’s first major order.
What do you think about Saudia’s decision to buy new planes? Let us know in the comments!