Saudi Arabian Airlines rules out purchasing new A380

Saudi Arabian Airlines looks to replace aircraft

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By  Barbara Cockburn Published  June 1, 2006

Saudi Arabian Airlines is in negotiations with Boeing and Airbus to replace some of its long-haul aircraft. Crown Prince and defence minister, Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, said: “Saudi Airlines has enough [long haul aircraft] right now, but there is discussion of replacing some old aircraft with modern ones.” This would be the first long-haul order for the state-owned airline in more than 20 years. The company invested in 15 Embraer 170 regional jets last April, with six already in operation and its seventh to be delivered next month. Engr. Ayman B. Nassief, SAA public relations officer, told Aviation Business the airline’s committee would look to have an order within the next two years and was also in discussions with Airbus. He said: “We are currently studying our old fleet and will look to have a decision within the next two years. We will be evaluating both Boeing and Airbus to meet our specifications.” However the airline has ruled out plans to acquire Airbus’s A380 superjumbos because they do not fit the carrier’s current business plan, an official said. “There is no plan to buy A380s. We do not require them,” said Ayman Nassief, adding that “those days are over” when the airline was willing to sign “mega deals for the sake of prestige.” SAA currently operates 64 Boeing aircraft, including 23 777-200s, and a fleet of11 Airbus A300-600. Sources close to the proposed deal said the order looked balanced towards Boeing as the bulk of the airline is made up of its aircraft and the airline has a strong relationship with the American manufacturer. Nassief added that SAA will introduce new long-haul destinations this year. These will include routes to Japan and Hong Kong by mid-July. Dr. Khaled A. Ben-Bakr, SAA’s director general, said the airline’s passengers reached 16.8 million in 2005 while revenues reached $3.8 billion in 2005. He added that the airline made a series of achievements at various levels in 2005, which included a “quantum leap” in cargo services, where the airline carried 287 million kg of consignments. The airline also increased its seating capacity on both domestic and international flights. He also highlighted the airline’s interest in developing its electronic-based services, such as SMS messaging on flight information, e-ticketing, e-payment and e-boarding pass dispensing.

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