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IATA ICAO Callsign
FoundedSeptember 1945; 78 years ago (1945-09)
Focus citiesMedina
Frequent-flyer programAl Fursan Loyalty
Fleet size157
Parent company
HeadquartersJeddah, Saudi Arabia
Key people

Saudia (Arabic: السعودية as-Suʿūdiyyah), formerly known as Saudi Arabian Airlines (Arabic: الخطوط الجوية العربية السعودية al-Ḫuṭūṭ al-Jawwiyyah al-ʿArabiyyah as-Suʿūdiyyah), is the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, based in Jeddah.[3][4] The airline's main hub is at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, with it planning to pull out of Riyadh as a major hub by 2030.[5]

Saudia operates domestic and international scheduled flights to over 100 destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Domestic and international charter flights are operated, mostly during the Ramadan and the Hajj seasons. It joined the SkyTeam airline alliance on 29 May 2012, making it the first carrier from the Persian Gulf region to join one of the three major airline alliances. Saudia is a member and one of the founders of the Arab Air Carriers' Organization.[6]


Early years[edit]

Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 707 in 1969

When U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt presented a Douglas DC-3 as a gift to King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud in 1945, the event marked the kingdom's gradual development of civil aviation. The nation's flag carrier, Saudia, was founded as Saudi Arabian Airlines in September 1945[7] as a fully owned government agency under the control of the Ministry of Defense, with Trans World Airlines(TWA) running the airline under a management contract.

The now-demolished Al-Kandara Airport, which was close to Jeddah, served as the flag carrier's main base. Among the airline's early operations was a special flight from Lydda (Lod) in Palestine (today in Israel, site of Ben-Gurion International Airport), a British Mandate at that time, to carry Hajj pilgrims to Jeddah. The airline used five DC-3 aircraft to launch scheduled operations on the Jeddah-Riyadh-Hofuf-Dhahran route in March 1947. Its first international service was between Jeddah and Cairo. Service to Beirut, Karachi[8] and Damascus followed in early 1948. The following year the first of five Bristol 170s was received. These aircraft offered the airline the flexibility of carrying both passengers and cargo.[9]

In 1962, the airline took delivery of two Boeing 720s, becoming the fourth Middle Eastern airline to fly jet aircraft, after Middle East Airlines and Cyprus Airways with the de Havilland Comet in 1960 and El Al with the Boeing 707 in 1961.[10] On 19 February 1963, the airline became a registered company, with King Faisal of Saudi Arabia signing the papers that declared Saudia a fully independent company. DC-6s and Boeing 707s were later bought, and the airline joined the AACO, the Arab Air Carriers' Organization. Services were started to Frankfurt, Geneva, Khartoum, London, Mumbai, Rabat, Sharjah, Tehran, Tripoli, and Tunis.

Saudi Arabian Airlines Lockheed L-1011 TriStar in 1987

In the 1970s, a new livery was introduced. It comprised a white fuselage with green and blue stripes and a green tailfin. The carrier's name was changed to Saudia on 1 April 1972. Boeing 737s and Fokker F-28s were bought, with the 737s replacing the Douglas DC-9. The airline operated its first Boeing 747 service in 1977 when three Jumbo Jets were leased from Middle East Airlines and deployed in the London sector. The first all-cargo flights between Saudi Arabia and Europe were started, and Lockheed L-1011s and Fairchild FH-27s were introduced. New services, including the Arabian Express 'no reservation shuttle flights' between Jeddah and Riyadh. The Special Flight Services (SFS) was set up as a special unit of Saudia and operates special flights for the royal family and government agencies. Service was also started to Kano, Muscat, Paris, Rome, and Stockholm. The Pan Am/Saudia joint service between Dhahran and New York City began in 1979.[11]

A Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747SP in 1989

In the 1980s services such as Saudia Catering began. Flights were started to Amsterdam, Athens, Baghdad, Bangkok, Brussels, Colombo, Dakar, Delhi, Dhaka, Islamabad, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Lahore, Madrid, Manila, Mogadishu, Nairobi, New York City, Nice, Seoul, Singapore, and Taipei. Horizon Class, a business class service, was established to offer enhanced service. Cargo hubs were built in Brussels and Taipei. Airbus A300s, Boeing 747s, and Cessna Citations were also added to the fleet, the Citations for the SFS service. In 1989 services to Larnaca and Addis Ababa began. On 1 July 1982, the first nonstop service from Jeddah to New York City was initiated with Boeing 747SP aircraft. This was followed by a Riyadh-New York route.

A Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 737-200 in 1995

In the 1990s, services to Orlando, Chennai, Asmara, Washington, D.C., Johannesburg, Alexandria, Milan, Málaga (seasonal), and Sanaa (resumption) were introduced. Boeing 777s, MD-90s and MD-11s were introduced. New female flight attendant uniforms designed by Adnan Akbar were introduced. A new corporate identity was launched on 16 July 1996, featuring a sand colored fuselage with contrasting dark blue tailfin, the center of which featured a stylized representation of the House of Saud crest. The Saudia name was dropped in the identity revamp, with the full Saudi Arabian Airlines name used.

Development (2000s–2020s)[edit]

On 8 October 2000, Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Saudi Minister of Defense and Aviation, signed a contract to conduct studies for the privatization of Saudi Arabian Airlines. In preparation for this, the airline was restructured to allow non-core units—including Saudia catering, ground handling services and maintenance as well as the Prince Sultan Aviation Academy in Jeddah—to be transformed into commercial units and profit centers. In April 2005, the Saudi government indicated that the airline may also lose its monopoly on domestic services.[12]

In 2006, Saudia began the process of dividing itself into Strategic Business Units (SBU); the catering unit was the first to be privatized.[13] In August 2007, Saudi Arabia's Council of Ministers approved the conversion of strategic units into companies. It is planned that ground services, technical services, air cargo and the Prince Sultan Aviation Academy, medical division, as well as the catering unit, will become subsidiaries of a holding company.[14]

The airline rebranded to its former brand name Saudia (used from 1972 to 1996) on 29 May 2012, dropping the Saudi Arabian Airlines branding entirely; the name was changed to celebrate the company's entry into the SkyTeam airline alliance on that day, and it was part of a larger rebranding initiative.[15]

Saudia received 64 new aircraft by the end of 2012 (six from Boeing and 58 from Airbus). Another eight Boeing 787-9 aircraft started to join the fleet in 2015.[16]

A Saudia Boeing 777 decorated in a special livery to commemorate the Saudi Arabia national football team (nicknamed the 'Green Falcons') in 2018

In April 2016, Saudia announced the creation of a low-cost subsidiary named Flyadeal. The airline was launched as part of Saudia Group's SV2020 Transformation Strategy, which intends to transform the group's units into world-class organisations by 2020. Flyadeal, which serves domestic and regional destinations, began operating in mid-2017.[17]

Continued growth and new brand identity (2020s–present)[edit]

In April 2021, Saudia announced that on 19 April, it will try the mobile app developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that helps passengers manage their travel information and documents digitally.[18]

In December 2021, Saudia was in talks with the two major aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing in purchasing new wide-body aircraft, the airline will decide in early 2022 whether it will order the Airbus A350 or the Boeing 777X, or it might purchase more Boeing 787's instead. The airline also chose the CFM International LEAP engine to power its Airbus A321neos which are expected to be delivered in 2024. The airline plans to have 250 planes in its fleet by 2030.[19]

In April 2022 services began to Seoul, Beijing, Batumi, Mykonos, Barcelona, Málaga, Bangkok, Chicago, Moscow, Entebbe and Kyiv. Services to Kyiv are currently not operating due to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. In June 2022, they resumed services to Zürich. In July 2022 Saudia signed a contract with the Air Connectivity Programme to launch four new destinations to Zürich, Barcelona, Tunis and Kuala Lumpur.

In March 2023, Saudia ordered 39 Boeing 787s split between the -9 and -10 variants, with options for a further ten aircraft.

A Saudia Boeing 787-10 in 2024 with the new design and logo

In September 2023, Saudia announced a rebrand to a 1980s-like design and logo. It also introduced a new travel AI assistant called "SAUDIA", using Open AI's GPT-4.[20]


Saudia was named the World's Most Improved Airline' for 2017 and 2020 by SkyTrax.[21]


Saudia sponsorships on a 1978 Williams FW06 being demonstrated at the 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed

Saudia was the main sponsor of the Williams Formula One team from 1977 to 1984. During this period Williams won the Constructors' Championship twice (1980 and 1981), and two Williams drivers won the Drivers' Championship: Alan Jones in 1980 and Keke Rosberg in 1982.

Saudia was the main sponsor of the 2018 and 2019 Diriyah ePrix. They are the official airline of Formula E, with one of their planes, a Boeing 777-300ER, painted in a special livery featuring an eagle head with the Spark SRT05e Gen2 car behind it.[22][23]

In November 2022, Newcastle United announced Saudia as the club’s official tour airline partner.[24]

In March 2023, Aston Martin F1 Team announced Saudia as the team's official global airline partner in a multi-year deal.[25]


King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudia's primary hub

Saudia operates to 102 destinations as of October 2022. The airline plans to reach 250 destinations by 2030.

Codeshare agreements[edit]

Saudia has codeshare agreements with SkyTeam partners and with the following airlines:[26]


Current fleet[edit]

Saudia Airbus A320-200
Saudia Airbus A330-300 in the special Saudi National Day livery
Saudia Boeing 777-300ER in the special Formula E livery
Saudia Cargo Boeing 777F

As of May 2024, the Saudia fleet consists of 147 aircraft, including its passenger and cargo fleet:[41][42][43][needs update]

Saudia Fleet
Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes
F J Y Total
Airbus A320-200 37 12 120 132
132 144
20 90 110
Airbus A321-200 15 20 145 165
Airbus A321neo 6 14 20 168 188 Order with 35 options.[44][45]
Airbus A321XLR 15[45] TBA
Airbus A330-300 33 36 262 298
252 288
30 300 330
Boeing 777-300ER 35 12 36 242 290 One painted in 1970s retro livery.
30 351 381
383 413
12 393 405
Boeing 787-9 13[46] 38[47][48] 24 274 298 Order with 10 options.[48]
Boeing 787-10 8 24 333 357[49]
Saudia Cargo Fleet
Boeing 747-400BDSF 2 Cargo Operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic.[50]
Boeing 777F 4 Cargo
Total 155 67

Historic fleet[edit]

Saudia Convair 340 in 1959
Saudia Lockheed L-1011 in 1985
Saudia McDonnell Douglas MD-90-30 in 2008
Saudia Boeing 747-400 leased from Air Atlanta Icelandic in 2012

Saudia formerly operated the following aircraft:[51]

Fleet history
Aircraft Total Introduced Retired Notes
Airbus A300-600 11 1984 2008 Launch customer
Airbus A330-300 1 2017 2023 HZ-AQ30 destroyed as flight SV458 during 2023 Sudan conflict[52]
Boeing 707-320 Un­known 1969 1997
Boeing 720 Un­known Un­known Un­known
Boeing 727-100 1 1976 2000s Operated for Saudi Arabian Royal Flight
Boeing 727-200 Un­known Un­known Un­known
Boeing 737-200 26 1972 2007
Boeing 747-100 19 1981 2010
Boeing 747-100B 32 1979 2012
1 1996 HZ-AIH crashed as flight SV763
Boeing 747-200F 7 1981 2012
Boeing 747-300 19 1983 2013 Eighth aircraft stored.
First aircraft used as VIP/Government transport.
Boeing 747-300SF 1 2014 2015
Boeing 747-400 22 2004 2022 Operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic. Mainly used for Hajj flights.
Some were used as preighter aircraft.
Boeing 747-8F 2 2013 2021 Sub-leased to other operators.[53]
Boeing 747SP 2 1981 1992
Boeing 757-200 10 2008 2011 All fleets were leased
Boeing 767-200ER 5 2003 2012
Boeing 767-300ER 6 2012 2012
Boeing 777-200ER 23 1997 2019
Convair 340 Un­known 1960s 1970s
Embraer ERJ-170 15 2005 2016 All aircraft stored
Fokker F28 2 1980 1986
Lockheed L-1011-200 17 1975 1998 HZ-AHP is currently preserved at Riyadh Aviation Museum
1 1980 HZ-AHK written off as flight SV163
Lockheed L-1011-500 2 1970s Un­known Operated for Saudi Arabian Royal Flight
McDonnell Douglas DC-8 series 37 1977 1998
McDonnell Douglas DC-10 1 1975 1990s
McDonnell Douglas MD-11 2 1998 2013 Operated for Saudi Arabian Royal Flight
McDonnell Douglas MD-11F 4 1998 2014 All aircraft stored
McDonnell Douglas MD-90-30 29 1998 2013 Two aircraft stored

Other aircraft[edit]

Saudi Royal Flight Boeing 747-400 parked at JFK Airport wearing its former livery, 2018. The above A340-200 is parked behind it.

Saudia Special Flight Services, VIP flights, and Private Aviation operate the following, several of which sport the airline's livery

Saudia Special Flight Service Fleet[citation needed]
Aircraft Total Order Notes
Beechcraft Bonanza 6 Used for flight training
Dassault Falcon 900 2 Used for government transport
Dassault Falcon 7X 4 Used for charter transport
Gulfstream IV 6 Used for government transport
Hawker 400XP 6 Used for government transport
Saudia Royal Flight Division Fleet[citation needed]
Aircraft Total Order Notes
Airbus ACJ318 1 HZ-AS99
Airbus A340-200X 1 Not in Saudia livery
Boeing 747-300 1
Boeing 747-400 1 Not in Saudia livery
Boeing 757-200 1 Used for flying hospital
Boeing 777-300ER 1 Not in Saudia livery
Boeing 787-8 2 Not in Saudia livery

Some military C-130s are also painted with the Saudia colors and are flown by Royal Saudi Air Force crews to support Saudi official activities in the region and Europe. Since 2017 two mobile escalators (TEC Hünert MFT 500-01[54]) travel with the King and transported by separate aircraft.

In 2021, the Saudi royal flight's single Boeing 747-400 registered as HZ-HM1 was painted in a new livery.[55]

As of January 2022, all the Saudi royal flight aircraft are going to be operated by a private company, that's why all aircraft are to be painted in another livery soon.[citation needed]

In-flight services[edit]

The inflight magazine of Saudia is called Ahlan Wasahlan (أهلاً وسهلاً "Hello and Welcome"). No alcoholic beverages or pork is served on board under Islamic dietary laws. Selected Airbus A320, Airbus A330-300, Boeing 787-9, Boeing 787-10, and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft are equipped with Wi-Fi and mobile network connectivity on board. Most aircraft also offer onboard specialized prayer areas and a recorded prayer is played before takeoff.[56]

Incidents and accidents[edit]

  • On 25 September 1959, a Saudia Douglas DC-4/C-54A-5-DO (registration HZ-AAF), performed a belly landing shortly after take-off from the old Jeddah Airport. The cause of the accident was just locks not deactivated by the mechanic, followed by a stall. All 67 passengers and five crew members survived.[57]
  • On 9 February 1968, a Douglas C-47 (reg. HZ-AAE) was damaged beyond economic repair at an unknown location.[58]
  • On 10 November 1970, a Douglas DC-3 on a flight from Amman Civil Airport, Jordan to King Khalid International Airport, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was hijacked and diverted to Damascus Airport, Syria.[59]
  • On 11 July 1972, a Douglas C-47B (reg. HZ-AAK) was damaged beyond economic repair in an accident at Tabuk Airport.[60]
  • On 2 January 1976, Saudia Flight 5130, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30CF, leased from ONA undershot the runway at Istanbul, Turkey, crash landed, tearing off the #1 engine and causing the left wing to catch fire. All passengers and crew evacuated safely. The aircraft was written off.[61]
The aftermath of the fire aboard Saudia Flight 163 in 1980
  • On 19 August 1980, Saudia Flight 163, a Lockheed L-1011-200 TriStar (HZ-AHK), operating Karachi-Riyadh-Jeddah, was completely destroyed by fire at Riyadh airport with the loss of all 301 people on board due to delays in evacuating the aircraft.[62] This was the deadliest accident experienced by Saudia until 312 were killed in the loss of Flight 763 over 16 years later.
  • On 22 December 1980, Saudia Flight 162, a Lockheed L-1011-200 TriStar, operating Dhahran to Karachi, experienced an explosive decompression, penetrating the passenger cabin. The hole sucked out two passengers and depressurized the cabin.[63]
  • On 5 April 1984, a Saudia Lockheed L-1011 TriStar on final approach to Damascus from Jeddah was hijacked by a Syrian national. The hijacker demanded to be taken to Istanbul, Turkey but changed his mind and requested to go to Stockholm, Sweden. After landing in Istanbul to refuel, the hijacker was arrested after the pilot pushed him out of the emergency exit.[64]
  • On 12 November 1996, a Saudia Boeing 747-100B (HZ-AIH), operating flight 763, was involved in the 1996 Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision. The aircraft was on its way from New Delhi, India, to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia when a Kazakhstan Airlines Ilyushin Il-76 (UN-76435) collided with it over the village of Charkhi Dadri, some miles west of New Delhi. Flight 763 was carrying 312 people, all of whom, along with 37 more on the Kazakh aircraft, died, for a total of 349 fatalities.[65][66] The loss of Flight 763 alone remains Saudia's worst accident in terms of fatalities. The accident overall also remains the world's deadliest mid-air collision.
  • On 6 September 1997, A Boeing 737-200 operating as Saudia Flight 1861 (reg. HZ-AGM) from Najran was accelerating on its takeoff roll when the No. 2 engine spooled up without any pilot input, the captain attempted to abort the landing but the engine continued to increase in power. The plane veered to the left of the runway, causing the main landing gears to collapse and tearing the right engine off the wing. It skidded for a few meters before stopping on the sand, a fire broke out but all 85 occupants managed to escape.[67][68]
  • On 14 October 2000, Saudia Flight 115,[69] flying from Jeddah to London was hijacked en route by two men who claimed they were armed with explosives. The hijackers commandeered the Boeing 777-200ER (HZ-AKH) to Baghdad, Iraq, where all 90 passengers and 15 crew members were safely released. The two hijackers, identified as Lieutenant Faisal Naji Hamoud Al-Bilawi and First Lieutenant Ayesh Ali Hussein Al-Fareedi,[70] both Saudi citizens, were arrested and later extradited to Saudi Arabia in 2003.[71][72]
  • On 23 August 2001, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, a Boeing 747-300 (reg. HZ-AIO) suffered nose damage as it entered a monsoon drainage ditch while it was being taxied by maintenance staff from the hangar to the gate before a return flight to Saudi Arabia. None of the six crew members on board at the time were injured, but the aircraft was written off.[73][74]
  • On 8 September 2005, a Boeing 747 travelling from Colombo to Jeddah, carrying mostly Sri Lankan nationals to take up employment in the Kingdom, received a false alarm claiming that a bomb had been planted on board. The aircraft returned to Colombo. During the evacuation, there was a passenger stampede in the wake of which one Sri Lankan woman died, 62 were injured, and 17 were hospitalized. The aircraft had taken on a load of 420 passengers in Colombo.[75] According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka, the probable cause was a "Breakdown of timely and effective communication amongst Aerodrome Controller and Ground Handling (SriLankan Airlines) personnel had prevented a timely dispatch of the stepladders to the aircraft to deplane the passengers in a timely manner, which resulted in the Pilot-In-Command to order an emergency evacuation of the passengers through slides after being alarmed by the bomb threat."[76]
  • On 25 May 2008, an Air Atlanta Icelandic aircraft operating for Saudia as Flight 810 (TF-ARS) from Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz Airport, Madinah made an unscheduled landing at Zia International Airport (now Shahjalal International Airport), Dhaka. During the roll the tower controller reported that he saw a fire on the right-hand wing. Upon vacating the runway, the crew received a fire indication for engine number three. The fire extinguisher was activated and all engines were shut down. The aircraft, a Boeing 747-357, which was damaged beyond repair, was successfully evacuated.[77] Only minor injuries were incurred.[78] Investigations revealed a fuel leak where the fuel enters the front spar for engine number three.[77]
  • On 5 January 2014, a leased Boeing 767 operating under Saudia was forced to make an emergency landing at Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz Airport in Medina after the landing gear failed to deploy. 29 people were injured in the incident.[79][80]
  • On 5 August 2014, a Boeing 747-400 (reg. HZ-AIX) operating as flight 871 from Manila to Riyadh veered off runway 24 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila while positioning for takeoff. No one on the plane or ground was injured.[81]
  • On 11 November 2017, a MyCargo Airlines Boeing 747-400 freighter operated by Saudia Cargo (reg. TC-ACR) as flight SV916 from Maastricht (EHBK) to Jeddah (OEJN) veered off to the right of the runway during the takeoff roll in after a loss of thrust on the #4 engine caused by a compressor stall. The pilots did not immediately retard the thrust levers, and more standard procedures weren't followed as the plane swerved due to 'startle effect'.[82][83][84] The aircraft was repaired soon after.[85]
  • On 21 May 2018, an Onur Air-leased Airbus A330-200 (reg TC-OCH), operating as flight 3818 from Medina to Dhaka, was diverted to Jeddah after suffering a malfunction with the nose landing gear. It was forced to make a belly landing. No injuries were reported.[86]
  • On 20 June 2022, a Boeing 777-368 operating as Flight 862 from Riyadh veered off and got stuck at a taxiway in Manila after landing. All 420 people on board were unharmed.[87][88]
  • On 15 April 2023, an Airbus A330-343 operating as Flight 458 was destroyed while preparing to take off in Khartoum Airport during the 2023 Sudan clashes. The aircraft, registered as HZ-AQ30, was hit by a tracer bullet, causing its hull to burn and its tail section to collapse.[89][90] Despite the damage, all occupants onboard managed to escape without any injuries[91] and were evacuated to the Saudi Embassy in Khartoum.[92] Another Saudi plane was a few hundred kilometres away from airport and it did not land. It did a U-turn in order to avoid being shot down.[93]

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