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Saudi Arabia’s national carrier orders more than 100 new Airbus jets as it ramps up tourism push

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May 20, 2024

Saudi Arabia’s national airline ordered more than 100 new Airbus jets, a reflection of the kingdom’s ambitious drive to lure more tourists.

Saudia Group, which represents the Saudia airline and its budget carrier Flyadeal, said Monday that it ordered 105 aircraft from the French aerospace company’s A320neo family of jets, including 12 A320neos and 93 A321neos. That brings Saudia Group’s Airbus aircraft order backlog to 144 of the A320neo family planes.

SAUDI ARABIA’S NATIONAL AIRLINE WILL NOT SEPARATE AIRPLANE CABINS BY GENDER

Saudia said it is increasing flights and seat capacity across its existing 100-plus destinations to meet the country’s goal of attracting more than 150 million tourists by 2030.

In February, Airbus reported healthy results for its commercial aircraft business in its latest annual earnings report and set a target of 800 commercial aircraft deliveries, 67 more than in 2023.

Airbus’s fortunes contrast with struggles at U.S. rival Boeing, which seemed finally to be recovering from two crashes of Max jets in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia. But on Jan. 5, a door plug blew out of an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9, and the company has been reeling ever since.

Airbus has benefitted from its decision to launch the A321neo, a single-aisle aircraft with 180 to 230 seats. “Neo” stands for new engine option, meaning highly fuel efficient engines that save airlines money on one of their biggest costs. Boeing rushed to match it with the Max, a 737 equipped with new, more efficient engines, only to run into a myriad of technical issues.

Despite Boeing’s woes, Airbus is unlikely to extend its advantage in the Airbus-Boeing duopoly much further because the company already is making planes as fast as it can, with a backlog of more than 8,600 orders to fill.

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