SkyTeam alliance member, Saudia will inaugurate scheduled passenger operations with the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in February 2016 initially connecting points within Saudi Arabia and linking its main hubs at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh to Dubai. The details of the carrier’s operational debut for the aircraft were revealed by our sister blog, Airline Route on September 1, 2015 after the carrier updated its website schedules.
According to its latest schedule update, Saudia will place the 787-9 into passenger operation from February 1, 2016 with its first scheduled flight due to operate as ‘SV1020’ between Jeddah and Riyadh. The type will be used on various frequencies on this route as well as between Jeddah and King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, while links from both Jeddah (daily on the SV588/589 rotation until February 29, 2016) and Riyadh (various frequencies) to Dubai will commence the same day.
These flights will cover an initial period of crew familiarisation before the type is introduced on longer missions to Europe and Asia. From March 1, 2016 the 787-9 is due to be introduced on the airline’s daily flights between Jeddah and Paris CDG, as well as four times weekly on Jeddah – Manchester, twice weekly on Jeddah – Guangzhou and three times weekly on Riyadh – Guangzhou.
The Gulf carrier has an outstanding order for eight Boeing 787-9s having taken over a previous commitment for the aircraft from Kuwait-based leasing company Aviation Lease and Finance Company (ALAFCO) in November 2010. This superseded a previous commitment in July 2008 to acquire 12 aircraft through a mix of direct purchases and operating leases, again through ALAFCO. The airline will configure the aircraft in a 298-seat, two-class arrangement with space for 24 Business Class and 274 Economy passengers.
The arrival of the 787-9 is part of a wider fleet renewal process at Saudia as it uses its SkyTeam alliance membership to further leverage its activities. The airline plans to introduce almost 100 new aircraft into its fleet in the coming years with orders for the Airbus A320, A321, A330 and Boeing 777s alongside the 787 commitment.
Saudia became the 16th member of SkyTeam when it was formally accepted into the alliance in May 2012 becoming its first member airline from the Middle East and providing the alliance with a strong foothold in this important economic region. Upon its entry Saudia added 51 new destinations to SkyTeam’s global network, including 23 within Saudi Arabia.
The airline this month celebrates its 70th anniversary of its foundation when US President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud with a single twin-engine Douglas DC-3 as a gift in 1945. This was followed months later with the purchase of two more DC-3s, and these formed the basis of the then known carrier, Saudi Arabian Airlines, which has emerged into Saudia and become a key global carrier operating a fleet of almost 120 aircraft to over 80 destinations.