The Biden administration said on Tuesday that it was “particularly pleased” that Saudi Arabia had placed a historic order for 121 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft in a deal worth around $27 billion at list value.
The bulk of the order has been earmarked for Riyadh Air – a brand new international airline that will initially operate an all-Boeing fleet in a blow to rival European aircraft manufacturer Airbus.
Riyadh Air has agreed to purchase at least 39 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, with options for a further 33 Dreamliners should the need arise. The first deliveries should begin in early 2025 if all goes to plan.
The longest range of the three 787 variants, the highly fuel-efficient -9 model, will help Riyadh Air fulfil its ambitious target of reaching 100 worldwide destinations by the end of the decade as it seeks to turn Riyadh into a global aviation hub.
Boeing could, however, be in for an even bigger payday should, as is widely expected, Saudi Arabia place a separate order for single-aisle 737MAX jets to build Riyadh Air’s regional network.
The enormity of the deal was not lost on White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who described the “landmark deals” as a “milestone” moment in relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia.
“We are particularly pleased that Boeing was able to finally conclude these deals with Saudi Arabia after years of discussions and intensive negotiations over recent months,” Jean-Pierre commented.
“Our administration looks forward to working with Saudi Arabia and all partners in the Middle East to support a more prosperous, secure, and integrated region, which ultimately benefits the American people.”
In a statement, Riyadh Air said it would equip its Dreamliner fleet with best-in-class cabin interiors and experiences, including next-generation inflight entertainment systems that will pit the carrier against regional rivals like Emirates and CEO Tony Douglas’ former employer Etihad Airways.
Saudi Arabia believes Riyadh Air is an essential part of its plan to transform Riyadh into one of the world’s significant city economies as part of a broader plan to transform Riyadh and the wider area but the rest of Tuesday’s order has been reserved for Saudi Arabia’s existing flag carrier Saudia.
The future of Saudia and a plan for coexistence with Riyadh Air hasn’t yet been entirely laid out, although its suspected Saudia will be transformed to cater for conservative and religious travellers, emphasising Umrah pilgrims through its Jeddah hub.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.