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Saudi Arabia’s national carrier orders more than 100 new Airbus jets as it ramps up tourism push

Saudi Arabia’s national airline has ordered more than 100 new Airbus planes, reflecting the kingdom’s ambitious move to attract more tourists.

Saudia Group, which represents Saudia Airlines and its low-cost carrier Flydeal, announced on Monday that it has ordered 105 aircraft from the French aerospace company’s A320neo family of jets, including 12 A320neos and 93 A321neos. This brings Saudia Group’s Airbus aircraft backlog to 144 A320neo family aircraft.

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Saudia said it is increasing the number of flights and seats in more than 100 existing destinations to meet the country’s goal of attracting more than 150 million tourists by 2030.

The new Airbus A320neo takes off for its first test flight at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in southwestern France on Thursday, September 25, 2014. Saudi Arabia’s national airline announced on Monday, May 20, 2024, that it has ordered more than 100 new Airbus aircraft. This reflects the kingdom’s ambitious efforts to attract more tourists. (AP Photo/Frederick Lancelot)

In February, Airbus reported strong performance for its commercial aircraft business in its latest annual financial report, setting a delivery target of 800 commercial aircraft, 67 more than in 2023.

Airbus’ fortunes stand in contrast to the struggles of U.S. rival Boeing Co., which appeared to be finally recovering from the 2018 and 2019 Max crashes that killed 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia. However, the airline has been in turmoil since January 5, when a door plug popped out of an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9.

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Airbus benefited from the decision to introduce the A321neo, a single-aisle aircraft with 180 to 230 seats. “Neo” stands for a new engine option, meaning a more fuel-efficient engine, which is one of the biggest costs for airlines. Boeing raced to match the 737 Max with a new, more efficient engine, but faced a myriad of technical problems.

Despite Boeing’s woes, Airbus already has a backlog of more than 8,600 planes and is building planes as quickly as possible, further extending its dominance in the Airbus-Boeing duopoly market. It is unlikely that it will.

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