Saudi Arabian Airlines
Saudi Arabian Airlines is the national airline of Saudi Arabia, based in Jeddah. It operates domestic and international scheduled flights to over 70 destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe and the USA. It also operates domestic and international charter flights. Its main base is King Abdulaziz International Airport, (JED), Jeddah, with hubs at King Khalid International Airport (RUH), Riyadh and Dhahran International Airport (DHA).
The airline was founded as Saudi Arabian Airlines in 1945 with the gift of a Douglas DC-3 presented to King Abdul Aziz by the then US President Roosevelt and began operations with a service between Jeddah and Dhahran. The first international route to Damascus was opened on 10 June 1945. The airline was considered an operating agency of the Ministry of Defense. That same year, their first airport was established in Kandara, near what is now known as Jeddah.
During the rest of the 1940s Saudi Arabian expanded, serving new cities (Cairo, Damascus and Beirut), providing a Hajj pilgrimage service flown from Lydda in British Palestine, and purchasing two more DC-3s. Saudi Arabian also received substantial logistical and mechanical help from American airline TWA, and in 1949, the first of five Bristol 170s was received. These planes allowed Saudi Arabian to carry both passenger and cargo on the same flights.
The slow but steady growth continued during the 1950s and services were inaugurated to Istanbul, Karachi, Amman, Kuwait City, Asmara, and Port Sudan. The fleet also saw a small growth during the 1950s, with five DC-4s and ten Convair 340s arriving. The CV340 was Saudi Arabian's first pressurised-cabin airplane. In 1959, the airline's first maintenance centre was inaugurated in Jeddah. Also during this decade, the very important shuttle route between Jeddah and Riyadh was established.
The 1960s became a very important decade for Saudi Arabian Airlines. In 1962, the airline took delivery of two Boeing 720s, making history by becoming the first Middle Eastern airline to fly jets. On February 19, 1963, the airline became a registered company, with King Faisal signing the papers that declared Saudi Arabian a fully independent company. DC-6s and Boeing 707s were later bought, the airline joined the Arab Air Carriers Organization, or AACO, and services were started to Sharjah, Tehran, Khartoum, Dubai, Bombay, Tunis, Rabat, Tripoli, Frankfurt, Geneva, and London.
The 1970s brought many changes for Saudi Arabian. A new livery was introduced, the operating name was changed from Saudi Arabian Airlines to Saudia on 1 April 1972, and Boeing 737 and Boeing 747 equipment began use. The 737s replaced the DC-9s. The first all-cargo flights between Saudi Arabia and Europe were also started, and Lockheed L-1011s and Fairchild F-27s were introduced. New services, including the Arabian Express no reservation shuttle flights system for the Jeddah to Riyadh route, and the Special Flight Services (SFS), were founded. Special Flight Services is still a service the airline offers for government-related and celebrity flights. Rome, Paris, Muscat, Kano, and Stockholm were inaugurated as Saudi Arabian Airlines cities. Joint operations with Pan Am from Jeddah to New York started on 3 February 1979.
Some new non-route-related services opened during the 1980s for the airline, such as Saudia Catering. Flights were started to Bangkok, Dhaka, Mogadishu, Nairobi, New York (Saudi Arabian's flights to New York are the only flights in the world that overfly 4 continents: it begins in Asia, passing over Africa and Europe, before landing in North America), Madrid, Singapore, Manila, New Delhi, Islamabad, Seoul, Baghdad, Amsterdam, Colombo, Nice, Lahore, Brussels, Dakar, Kuala Lumpur and Taipei. Horizon Class, a business class service, was established between Jeddah and Cairo, and cargo hubs were built at Brussels and Taipei. Airbus A300s, Fokker F-28s, and Cessna Citations were also added to the fleet, the Citations for the SFS service. To finish the decade, services were introduced in 1989 to Larcana and Addis Ababa.
In the 1990s services were introduced to Orlando, Chennai, Tokyo, Asmara, Washington, D.C., Johannesburg, Alexandria, Athens, Milan, M�laga, and Sanaa. Boeing 777s, McDonnell Douglas MD-90s and MD-11s were introduced, smoking was banned on certain flights to Muslim countries as well as on all domestic flights, and new stewardess uniforms designed by Adnan Akbar were introduced. A new corporate identity was launched on 16 July 1996, featuring an elegant sand coloured fuselage with contrasting dark blue tailfin, the centre of which featured a stylised representation of the House of Saud crest. The Saudia name was dropped in the identity revamp, and Saudi Arabian Airlines was resurrected.
On 8 October 2000, Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the Saudi Minister of Defence & Aviation, signed a contract to conduct studies for the privatisation of Saudi Arabian Airlines. In preparation for privatisation, the airline is currently restructuring to allow non-core units including catering, ground handling services and maintenance as well as the Prince Sultan Flight Academy in Jeddah, to transform into commercial units and profit centres. In April 2005, the Saudi government indicated that the airline may also lose its monopoly on domestic services 1.
Incidents and Accidents
Saudi Arabian suffered the first of two major air tragedies on 19 August 1980. Saudia Flight 163, a Lockheed L1011 Tristar on a flight from Karachi to Jeddah via Riyadh reported smoke in the aft cargo compartment shortly after take off from the capital's King Khalid International Airport. The aircraft returned to the airport and landed safely, however an emergency evacuation of the aircraft was not ordered. With a delay in evacuating the passengers, fire consumed the aircraft on the ground, killing all 287 passengers and 14 crew.
On 12 November 1996 Saudia flight 763, a Boeing 747 en route from Delhi to Dhahran, collided with an Air Kazakhstan Ilyushin Il-76 at 15,000 feet several miles from Delhi. All 312 passengers on board the 747 and 37 passengers on the Il-76 died in the accident, making it the worst mid-air collision in history. An investigation by the Indian authorities later blamed the Air Kazakhstan crew's poor understanding of English and failure to head air traffic control warnings.
See Saudi Arabian Airlines destinations for a comprehensive list of cities served.
The Saudi Arabian Airlines fleet consists of the following aircraft (at June 2005):
- 11 Airbus A300-600
- 9 Boeing 737-200
- 7 Boeing 747-100
- 1 Boeing 747-200F (cargo)
- 10 Boeing 747-300 (incl. 1 government use)
- 5 Boeing 747-400
- 3 Boeing 747SP (incl. 1 government use)
- 23 Boeing 777-200
- 2 Lockheed L1011 500 Tristar (government use)
- 4 McDonnell Douglas MD-11F (cargo)
- 29 McDonnell Douglas MD-90
- 4 Gulfstream II (incl. 3 government use)
- 3 Gulfstream III (government use)
- 6 Gulfstream IV (government use)
- 1 De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 300 (government use)
- 2 Dassault Falcon 900 (government use)
- 3 Beechcraft Bonanza (training)
- 8 Piper Archer II (training)
Other facts of interest
- In the middle 1990s, a DC-3 that used to fly for Saudi Arabian was re-decorated in the airline's early livery and flown back to Saudi Arabia.
- Since 1998, Saudi Arabian Airlines is the official sponsor of the Malwan Art exhibition, in Saidon, Lebanon.
- The DC-3 that was delivered to Saudi Arabia's king in the 1940s is still kept, but not flown, by the airline. It sits on the runway by Saudi Arabian's terminal at Jeddah International Airport.
- From 1978 to 1983 Saudia was the title sponsor of the Williams Formula One team, with the airline's colours appearing on the championship winning cars of Alan Jones (1980) and Keke Rosberg (1982).
- Saudi Arabian Airlines
- Saudi Arabian Airlines Fleet Detail
- Saudi Arabian Airlines Passenger Opinionsde:Saudi Arabian Airlines
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