Saudi Airlines Considering A380 Superjumbo Order as 747s Near Retirement

An Airbus SAS A380 superjumbo jet at the Farnborough International Airshow.

An Airbus SAS A380 superjumbo jet at the Farnborough International Airshow.

Photographer: Liz Claus/Bloomberg
  • State-owned carrier also looking at 777X, more narrow-bodies
  • Purchase could come as early as Dubai air show in November

Saudi Arabian Airlines is looking at placing an order for Airbus Group SE’s A380 superjumbo and could also purchase more Boeing Co. 777 wide-body planes or the re-engined and enlarged 777X, Chief Executive Officer Abdul Mohsen Jonaid said in an interview.

The state-owned carrier wants to replace four Boeing 747s and must decide whether to retire aging 777-200s or redeploy them on flights tied to the Hajj pilgrimage, according to Jonaid, who said some orders could come as early as next month’s Dubai air show.

Saudia, as the airline is known, also wants more single-aisle jets, with Airbus’s A320, either the current version or upgraded Neo, and Boeing 737 Max in the running, the CEO said. It aims to swell the overall fleet to 200 planes by 2020 from 119 now in order to add flights at the new Jeddah airport, which opens in 2017, and is also examining the case for establishing discount operations.

“The low-cost-carrier model is something we’re studying,” Jonaid said at an industry conference in Dubai, where the interview took place. A startup would compete with independent Saudi carrier Flynas LCC, which has been offering no-frills flights since 2007.

Saudia already has 50 Airbus planes on order, comprising 30 current-version A320s and 20 A330-300 wide-bodies in the latest high-capacity layout. The company is also retiring Embraer SA 170 regional jets, of which there are 15 in the fleet, though hasn’t decided what kind of planes will replace them, according to Jonaid.

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