When the rulers of Saudi Arabia decided to pump billions of dollars into creating a brand new international airline with Riyadh Air, the obvious question was, what does that mean for Saudia, the Kingdom’s long-serving but much-maligned flag carrier?
There had been speculation that Saudia would be transformed into little more than a special Umrah airline serving Muslims around the world on religious pilgrimages to Mecca.
The thought process was that the Saudia brand, while not necessarily ‘toxic’ on the world stage, certainly wasn’t massively well-regarded, especially as the Kingdom attempts to transform its global image and attract millions of tourists to the country in the coming years.
It turns out, however, that Saudia has a very different idea. In fact, not only is the airline embracing its heritage, but it also plans to expand its fleet and the number of destinations it serves in coming years.
On Saturday, Saudia launched its new brand image – which will look familiar as it is a reworked logo and font used by the airline from 1971 all the way through to 1996.
The logo and livery have already been painted on several aircraft and Saudia didn’t even attempt to shield these planes from prying eyes – everyone just assumed the aircraft were sporting commemorative retro liveries.
But while the logo is a blast from the past, Saudia says the rebrand actually “marks the beginning of a new era” for the airline.
In a press release, the airline said passengers can “anticipate an authentic Saudi experience during their journey, showcasing the very best of Saudi Arabia and its rich culture. This includes a distinctive fragrance and sonic identity, locally inspired cuisine, all crafted by skilled Saudi craftsmen”.
“This new identity mirrors Saudi Arabia’s welcoming spirit, leaving guests with a deep sense of the country’s warmth and hospitality, while promoting a deeper appreciation of Saudi culture for both nationals and visitors,” the press release continued.
In addition, the airline will finally roll out new cabin crew uniforms which were originally unveiled just before the pandemic, while an “ambitious, long-planned digital transformation” promises to improve the passenger experience throughout their journey.
Saudi Arabia clearly believes that its aviation market is plenty big enough to support two major international airlines, and Saudia is essential to the Kingom’s national aviation strategy, which has an ambitious goal of attracting more than 330 million visitors to Saudi Arabia by 2030.
At present, Saudia is headquartered in Jeddah but has a dual base in Riyadh. Will Saudia go head to head with Riyadh Air when it launches in 2025?
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.