Monday, May 22, 2017

Boeing negotiating widebody order with SaudiGulf Airlines

Boeing said it has agreed to negotiate a widebody aircraft order with Saudi Arabian startup SaudiGulf Airlines for as many as 16 aircraft, which the airline indicated will be 777s and/or 787s.

The Dammam-based carrier started operations in October 2016 with what it described as an upscale, full-service offering that it hopes will differentiate it from other carriers in the Saudi domestic market. The airline currently operates a fleet of four Airbus A320ceo aircraft. It has 16 Bombardier CS300 aircraft on firm order, plus 10 options.

The news that the airline has entered into talks with Boeing about a widebody order came in a Boeing press release detailing a number of deals, mostly military, between Boeing and Saudi Arabia that were announced in connection with US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia over the weekend.

The airline currently only operates domestic flights, serving Dammam, Jeddah, Riyadh and Abha. It has indicated it will fly internationally to Dubai, but Dubai is not listed as a destination on SaudiGulf’s website.

SaudiGulf CCO Karim Makhlouf told ATW that long-haul flights are in the airline’s mid- to long-term plan. Destinations have not yet been decided on, but Southeast Asia is one region of interest, both for normal services and religious traffic heading to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.

SaudiGulf is considering both the 777 and 787 for its future requirements, he said, with a decision to be made “within the next two to three years.”

Makhlouf said SaudiGulf is also considering moving from the A320 to the larger A321 as its passenger numbers grow. “In common with most operators, once the A320 successfully reaches certain loads or thresholds, you typically grow into the next size,” he explained. Load factors on its A320s are reaching 60%, which is “not bad and in line with projections,” Makhlouf said.

(Alan Dron and Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

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