Riyadh Air’s Secret Narrow Body Aircraft Order

Riyadh Air’s Secret Narrow Body Aircraft Order

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Riyadh Air is Saudi Arabia’s ambitious new airline, which will launch flights in the summer of 2025. So far, the airline has publicly confirmed an order for Boeing 787s. We’ve known for some time that Riyadh Air intends to acquire narrow body jets. That order has allegedly now been placed, though the details haven’t been revealed.

Has Riyadh Air ordered the 737 MAX or A320neo?

This week at the Arabian Travel Market, Riyadh Air CEO Tony Douglas made some interesting comments about the carrier’s fleet plans. Douglas explained that Riyadh Air has “a narrow-body position secured,” and that the details should be announced “in a matter of months.”

Presumably Riyadh Air has either ordered some variant of the Boeing 737 MAX or some variant of the Airbus A320neo. If the order is as secure as is claimed, I’m curious why Riyadh Air isn’t yet disclosing the details, and further, why the airline plans to wait several more months to make such an announcement.

As a reminder, in March 2023, Riyadh Air placed an order for up to 72 Boeing 787s, including a firm order for 39 jets, plus options for an additional 33 jets. Since then, the airline has been hinting at a narrow body order, since the airline wants both regional and long haul connectivity.

In November 2023, rumors were swirling that Riyadh Air was nearing an order for up to 100 Boeing 737 MAXs, and an order could be announced within days. That never ended up materializing, at least in terms of the deal being publicly disclosed.

I can’t help but wonder how that has evolved:

  • Did Riyadh Air follow through on its Boeing 737 MAX order, or did all the recent issues with Boeing cause the airline to reconsider?
  • Did Riyadh Air secretly place an Airbus A320neo family order? In December 2023, an undisclosed customer purchased up to 12 A320neos and up to 132 A321neos, and in April 2024, an undisclosed customer purchased up to 51 A321neos, so I imagine one of those orders may have been for Riyadh Air (most likely the latter)

Whichever aircraft Riyadh Air selected, I’m curious to see how the airline chooses to reconfigure them. Will the airline just go with recliner seats in business class, or will we see the airline offer flat beds throughout the fleet? Or could we see Riyadh Air offer two different configurations, with some jets designed for longer flights to Europe, and some designed for shorter hops within the Gulf region?

Hopefully we see the airline introduce something similar to FlyDubai’s new Boeing 737 MAX business class suites (though that product is delayed as well).

FlyDubai’s new Boeing 737 MAX business class

Riyadh Air plans another wide body aircraft order

Riyadh Air is now reportedly working toward placing its third aircraft order. In addition to the up to 72 Boeing 787s that have already been ordered, plus the undisclosed order for narrow body aircraft, Riyadh Air is planning a second wide body aircraft order.

Riyadh Air is aiming to fly 200 jets within five years of launching operations, which would be by 2030. Suffice it to say that this is an incredible pace of growth, especially when you consider that many of these will be wide body aircraft. Douglas states that the new wide body order will be placed by 2025. A couple of thoughts:

  • Given the current backlog in delivery slots for both 787s and A350s, the airline needs to place an order soon if it wants to take delivery of these jets by 2030
  • At first it seemed like Riyadh Air might be going for an all-Boeing fleet, though given Boeing’s quality issues, perhaps Riyadh Air doesn’t want to put all of its eggs in one basket

Personally I wouldn’t be surprised to see Riyadh Air add some Airbus A350s to its fleet as well. Or perhaps if the Boeing 777X actually gets certified by 2025, maybe that could be a good addition to the Riyadh Air fleet as well.

Riyadh Air is planning a second wide body order

Bottom line

Saudi Arabian airline startup Riyadh Air has reportedly placed a narrow body aircraft order, but hasn’t yet disclosed the details. Late last year there were rumors that Riyadh Air was nearing an order for the Boeing 737 MAX, but I have to imagine that this deal could have also gone to the A320neo family of aircraft (which frankly is much more versatile). In April 2024, we saw an order for 51 A321neos for an undisclosed customer, and I can’t help but think that this may have been for Riyadh Air.

Now Riyadh Air is working on a second wide body aircraft order, which should be finalized by 2025. Riyadh Air is expected to commence operations in the summer of 2025, and Douglas has continued to insist that he’s confident there will be no delay in launch due to Boeing issues. I’m not quite as confident as he is…

What narrow body aircraft do you think Riyadh Air has selected?

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  1. Thomas Guest

    Yesterday, Airbus has revealed an order for 51 A321neos placed by an undisclosed customer in its latest backlog figures (Sources: Flight Global, Aviation Week).
    Maybe this news answers the question….

  2. iamhere Guest

    Nothing really told in this article

  3. Eskimo Guest

    Maybe Tony Douglas ordered them through the embassy in Turkey?

  4. Justin Guest

    Riyadh Air should be all Boeing, and Saudia’s 787 should be transferred to Riyadh. All Airbuses should go to sister airline Saudia.

  5. Lune Diamond

    Honest question, if you're starting a brand new airline with no old planes / infrastructure to support, why would you choose the 737 over the A32x family?

    Let's set aside price, Boeing's current quality issues, and delivery availability. I know those are important, but just purely from a technical standpoint, I'm curious, what advantage does the 737 have over a comparable A32x?

    It seems to me (and correct me if I'm wrong) that the A32x...

    Honest question, if you're starting a brand new airline with no old planes / infrastructure to support, why would you choose the 737 over the A32x family?

    Let's set aside price, Boeing's current quality issues, and delivery availability. I know those are important, but just purely from a technical standpoint, I'm curious, what advantage does the 737 have over a comparable A32x?

    It seems to me (and correct me if I'm wrong) that the A32x is more comfortable for passengers (a few extra inches width makes a big difference in a narrowbody), more flexible across its family in terms of range and seat capacity, and I believe just as fuel efficient in CASM terms. So unless you're Southwest or Ryanair with a massive legacy 737 operations to serve as a sunk cost, why wouldn't you base a brand new airline on the A32x family?

    (PS as a certified avgeek, it does suck that in a few years, 99% of non-regional flights will be from just 5 families: 737, 787, and 777X on Boeing, and just A32x, and A350 from Airbus. Even Emirates will have to start retiring their A380s probably in another decade. But no more McDonnell-Douglas, Lockheed, Fokker, etc. that used to be common in the 80s. Makes for some boring plane spotting these days...)

    1. Justin Guest

      The MAX 7 and 8 are more fuel efficient than the A319 and 320NEO.

    2. NateNate Guest

      Also, if you want the US to provide your defense, you should buy from US companies. That way, when you visit the US, President Trump can hold up posterboard showing all that you have bought from US companies.

    3. Timtamtrak Diamond

      Don’t forget the A330neo. Those will be around for quite a while and most offer a good cabin experience so far.

    4. David Guest

      Time to delivery might be a big one - the A32x order wait list is a lot longer than the 737M one.

  6. Malc Diamond

    I'm sure some readers will be familiar with this site, but I just came across this thread, which I found interesting: https://www.pprune.org/middle-east/648658-ria-saudi-airlines-28.html

  7. Daniel Guest

    They will probably base them all in Neom Bay Airport, so it all makes sense....

  8. InceptionCat Gold

    Airbus announced that an unnamed customer ordered 51 A321neos. That could be Riyadh Air or United.

    1. Daryl Stuart Guest

      Yes, or Qantas or AeroMexico or Hawaiian or British Airways or Icelandair or PIA... I can name airlines too. Random naming of airlines in an attempt to sound like an intellectual, in reality is a blight on intellectual excellence and should be discouraged.

    2. Pudu Guest

      What are you blathering about? Are you having some kind of episode?

    3. Pudu Guest

      That was directed at the charming and obviously emotionally well regulated “Daryl”, to be clear.

    4. Yiannis93117 Guest

      Right in guy! You hit the spot. Who really cares if they ordered them or not. Or which kind.

    5. ImmortalSynn Guest

      Daryl Stuart, Yiannis93117, Biglaw V10 Partner, etc.

      How many screen-names do you plan to make, while committing the same syntax/grammatical errors that make it obvious every time?

      Just wondering.

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The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Lune Diamond

Honest question, if you're starting a brand new airline with no old planes / infrastructure to support, why would you choose the 737 over the A32x family? Let's set aside price, Boeing's current quality issues, and delivery availability. I know those are important, but just purely from a technical standpoint, I'm curious, what advantage does the 737 have over a comparable A32x? It seems to me (and correct me if I'm wrong) that the A32x is more comfortable for passengers (a few extra inches width makes a big difference in a narrowbody), more flexible across its family in terms of range and seat capacity, and I believe just as fuel efficient in CASM terms. So unless you're Southwest or Ryanair with a massive legacy 737 operations to serve as a sunk cost, why wouldn't you base a brand new airline on the A32x family? (PS as a certified avgeek, it does suck that in a few years, 99% of non-regional flights will be from just 5 families: 737, 787, and 777X on Boeing, and just A32x, and A350 from Airbus. Even Emirates will have to start retiring their A380s probably in another decade. But no more McDonnell-Douglas, Lockheed, Fokker, etc. that used to be common in the 80s. Makes for some boring plane spotting these days...)

2
Pudu Guest

What are you blathering about? Are you having some kind of episode?

2
Pudu Guest

That was directed at the charming and obviously emotionally well regulated “Daryl”, to be clear.

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