On December 4th, Saudi Arabian Airlines, better known as Saudia, announced that it had signed an agreement to order CFM International LEAP-1A powerplants for its fleet of upcoming A320neo and A321neo jets. Valued at approximately $8.5 billion at list prices, the agreement also includes a service contract to cover the engines of the purchased aircraft while also providing engine coverage for an additional 20 leased A320neos.
While multi-billion dollar deals will make the headlines for aircraft purchases, you won’t see similar news for engine agreements nearly as often. Sometimes this is merely because an aircraft is only powered by one type of engine – the 737 MAX, A330neo, and A350 are example cases. In most cases, however, there’s just less overall interest in whether an airline chooses CFM or Pratt & Whitney and much more interest in whether it chooses Airbus over Boeing or vice versa.
However, selecting an engine type is a big deal- and can be the difference between a temporarily grounded fleet or one that is still operational. This is something that airlines operating Boeing 787s with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines are far too familiar with.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
An engine type has been selected
Digressions and background aside, Saudi Arabian Airlines has made a decision to go with CFM International’s LEAP-1A engines for its fleet of upcoming A320neo family aircraft. In a move that appears to be putting all of its eggs in one basket, the carrier is committing fully to CFM International, shutting out the PW1100G engine option provided by Pratt & Whitney.
This move will see LEAP-1As power Saudia’s 35 Airbus A321neo and 30 A320neo aircraft. The airline also notes that the agreement also includes a “Rate-Per-Flight-Hour (RPFH) services contract to cover engines from this new order as well as an additional 20 leased A320neo aircraft.”
The agreement will also see CFM assist the SAUDIA Group subsidiary Saudia Aerospace Engineering Industries in “developing its own engine overhaul services, including disassembly, inspection, assembly, testing, and qualification/certification for the LEAP-1A engines.”
The comprehensive agreement is valued at approximately $8.5 billion at list price.
The obvious choice for Saudia’s fleet
Although two engine options are available for the A320neo family of jets, going with CFM-built engines was the clear choice for the carrier.
Indeed, the airline already operates 61 CFM56-5B-powered Airbus A320ceo aircraft, while SAUDIA Group’s low-cost subsidiary, flyadeal, operates 11 CFM56-5B-powered A320ceo aircraft and five LEAP-1A-powered A320neos.
A notable airline having chosen Pratt & Whitney for its fleet of A320neos is Indian budget airline IndiGo. However, this choice has come with some issues.
It was back in 2019 that IndiGo faced several A320neo engine problems during flight- issues known to be associated with Pratt & Whitney engines that power this aircraft family.
Given that IndiGo’s A320neos had faced several incidents within a period of a few weeks, India’s civil aviation regulator took a more cautious approach and mandated a replacement of these engines.
Is an airline’s choice of engines ever something that crosses your mind when stepping aboard an aircraft? Let us know by leaving a comment.