Saudia eyes global expansion and augmented fleet as brand value soars

From new Dreamliners to adding more than 500 hrs of HD content for inflight entertainment, airline set to blaze the skies

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As Saudi Arabia looks to become one of the world’s most-visited destinations, the country’s flag-carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) has unveiled a massive growth strategy and an expanded fleet as it eyes worldwide expansion and enhanced connectivity to the Kingdom.

As the country counts down to the launch of its second carrier – Riyadh Air, which is set for take-off in 2025 – Saudi Arabia’s original airline has its own plans to rule the skies.

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Saudia has recently achieved a 22.5 percent increase in brand value, reaching $797.4 million in 2024, according to Brand Finance’s Top 50 airlines annual report, helping position Saudia as the sixth fastest-growing airline brand globally.

Chief Marketing Officer of the Saudia Group, Khaled Tash, attributes this success to an approach that encompasses network expansion, fleet modernization, customer experience enhancements, and a comprehensive rebranding effort.

“Saudia’s success can be attributed to a multi-faceted approach,” Tash said in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

“Firstly, our expansion of the route network and aircraft fleet has been pivotal. In 2023, we added 11 international and domestic destinations to our network and have placed an order for 49 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, allowing us to not only increase accessibility for our guests, but also strengthen Saudia’s position as a leading airline.”

Ambitious growth plans

Looking ahead, Saudia has set its sights on ambitious growth targets. The airline is working towards the objectives outlined in the Saudi Aviation Strategy, aiming to fly 330 million passengers by 2030 and position itself as a global industry leader.

“Expansion and growth are at the heart of our strategy,” Tash asserts. “Our target for 2030 is to have a fleet of 241 aircraft and to fly to more than 145 destinations globally. We’re on track with our objectives and are very proud to now have a fleet of 143 aircraft, flying to over 100 destinations.”

Last September, Red Sea Global (RSG), the multi-project developer behind the world’s most ambitious regenerative tourism destinations -- The Red Sea and Amaala -- signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudia and daa International, the operator of Red Sea International (RSI) airport, that will see Saudia become the first airline to operate from RSI.

Saudia will complement Riyadh Air. The creation of a second Saudi national airline alongside Saudia is part of Saudi Arabia’s plan to diversify its economy amid a huge push for tourism with new developments, including the Red Sea project and NEOM, taking shape across the Kingdom.

Saudia’s growth plans are not only focused on expanding its reach, but also on fostering economic development within the Kingdom.

The country intends to allocate approximately $800 billion towards the tourism sector within the next decade, aiming to lead the Kingdom into a post-oil era and establish it as a prominent center for various industries, including mining and sporting events.

In 2023, Saudi recorded 100 million tourists, most of them locals. International visitors accounted for about 27 million, with a chunk of arrivals related to religious or business travel. By 2030, the objective is to attract 150 million tourists annually, with roughly 70 million from international origins.

By providing reliable air transportation services, Saudia aims to facilitate international trade, investment, and business partnerships, aligning with the country’s economic diversification goals under Vision 2030.

Enhancing customer experience

Central to Saudia’s growth strategy is a relentless focus on enhancing customer experience.

“We’ve started implementing an unprecedented digital strategy, using AI-powered technologies and integrated connectivity solutions, tailored to enhance the travel experience for all guests,” Tash reveals. “This translates into an upgrade of our inflight entertainment systems, enhanced cabin amenities, and streamlined booking processes for a more compelling experience of Al Fursan, our loyalty program.”

The airline has introduced new personalized services and has plans to offer more than 5,000 hours of HD content in its inflight entertainment systems.

Additionally, Saudia is retrofitting its older aircraft to enhance cabin comfort and introducing new business-class seats to cater to the discerning needs of its premium passengers.

Embracing technology and innovation

In an industry where technology is a key differentiator, Saudia has made substantial investments to stay at the forefront of innovation. From digital check-in processes to advanced onboard connectivity, the airline leverages technology to improve operational efficiency and passenger satisfaction.

Saudia has recently achieved a 22.5 percent increase in brand value, reaching $797.4 million in 2024, according to Brand Finance’s Top 50 airlines annual report. (Supplied: Saudia)
Saudia has recently achieved a 22.5 percent increase in brand value, reaching $797.4 million in 2024, according to Brand Finance’s Top 50 airlines annual report. (Supplied: Saudia)

Saudia’s technological advancements extend beyond the passenger experience. The airline is actively exploring innovative solutions to make flying more sustainable. Collaborations with organizations such as Formula E showcase Saudia’s commitment to driving positive change and shaping a greener future for the aviation industry.

A rebranding journey

In 2023, Saudia underwent a comprehensive rebranding to align with its strategic digital transformation plan and strengthen its support for the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which aims to bring the world to Saudi Arabia.

The new brand identity has resonated positively with guests, partners, and stakeholders, contributing to the airline’s remarkable brand value growth.

“Our new identity and these initiatives have resonated positively with our guests, partners, and stakeholders, driving our brand value upwards,” Tash says. The rebranding goes beyond a visual transformation, it represents Saudia’s commitment to progress, and innovation, and its role in promoting Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural heritage to the world.

Sustainability is Saudia’s ‘cornerstone’

In an era where environmental responsibility is paramount, Saudia has made sustainability a core element of its operations. The airline has implemented eco-friendly initiatives across the board, from investing in fuel-efficient aircraft to promoting sustainable tourism in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism.

“Sustainability is a cornerstone of Saudia’s operations. We recognize the importance of minimizing our environmental impact and we continually strive to improve our environmental performance as an integral part of our business strategy and operating methods,” says Tash. “We are committed to becoming an industry leader in sustainability.”

Saudia’s dedication to environmental stewardship is evident in its fleet modernization efforts. The airline’s investment in Boeing 787 Dreamliners and its exploration of Electrical Vertical Take-off and Landing (eVTOL) jets with Lilium demonstrate its proactive approach to reducing its carbon footprint.

Preserving the Kingdom’s cultural identity

As Saudia continues its global ascent, it remains deeply rooted in Saudi heritage. The airline takes pride in reflecting the Kingdom’s rich cultural identity across all touchpoints of the travel experience.

“Moving forward, Saudia will continue to reflect Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural identity across the whole travel experience, fostering a deeper connection between the Kingdom, our airline, and our guests,” Tash emphasizes.
Saudia’s commitment to promoting Saudi Arabia’s cultural heritage extends beyond its onboard offerings, says Tash.

With an extensive route network, Saudia helps attract international tourists and pilgrims, contributing to the diversification of the country’s economy.

Tash says with its brand value growth, ambitious expansion plans, and unwavering commitment to excellence, Saudia is well-placed to “solidify its position as a global leader in the aviation industry.”

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