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Saudia international passengers up 52% in H1

Saudia passengers Birmingham Airport
Saudia's international flights were up 30% in the six months to the end of June
  • Airline operated 30% more international flights in the period
  • Total passengers were up 24% in H1, to 13.7 million
  • Saudia is expanding its fleet with new Airbus A321 neo jets

Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) reported a 52 percent year-on-year rise in international passenger traffic in the first half of 2023, climbing to 7.4 million passengers.  

The growth was partly driven by the state-owned airline extending its reach to four continents. Saudia operated a total of 37,600 international flights, marking 30 percent growth.

In total the airline carried more than 13.7 million passengers in the six months to June, a rise of 24 percent compared with the same period a year earlier.

It operated 85,400 flights in the first half of the year, reflecting a growth rate of six percent.  

Saudia CEO Ibrahim Koshy emphasised the airline’s crucial role in supporting the growth of the kingdom’s tourism, business, Hajj and Umrah sectors through strategic partnerships.

Koshy noted that Saudia has increased its seat capacity and flight frequency to cater to the growing demand for travel, firmly establishing itself as a key player in bringing the world to the kingdom.

Earlier this year Saudia welcomed its first Airbus A321 neo aircraft – 20 more aircraft of the same model are planned to join its fleet by 2026.

The 240-seat jets will minimise emissions, fuel use and unit costs.

Riyadh Air on the horizon

Airlines will contribute to the kingdom’s ambitious tourism growth strategy, with Riyadh Air, a second national airline, due to launch in 2025.  

Last week Riyadh Air said it had received almost half a million job applications since its launch this March.

It has appointed industry veteran Tony Douglas as its CEO, who previously led Etihad Airways from January 2018 to October 2022.

Having opened its doors to the world for the first time in 2018, Saudi Arabia aims to attract 100 million visitors each year and increase the number of passengers through its 29 airports from 100 million to 330 million by 2030.

Data compiled for AGBI by travel trends and analytics company ForwardKeys shows that total international arrivals to the kingdom for 2022 were still significantly down – by 40 percent – on 2019.

But in the first quarter of 2023 flight bookings grew by 3 percent compared with the same period of 2019.