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‘It will be a breakthrough’: Saudia buys 100 electric planes to revolutionize domestic travel
Riyadh: Saudi Arabian Airlines has agreed to buy 100 innovative electric vertical take-off and landing planes as it seeks to connect Jeddah to major tourist destinations in the Kingdom, according to one of the company’s top executives.
Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, group marketing director Khaled Tash said Saudia – the airline operated by his company – will be the first in the region to use the technology.
The agreement was reached with the German company Lilium, which is in the final phase of testing the aircraft, whose operations should begin in two years.
Tash said Saudia would use the plane to improve access to destinations along the Red Sea and Mecca.
“It will actually be our first priority in the next few years to connect the airport with Makkah, through which some of our premium passengers will be able to land at Jeddah airport, take one of these small planes and go to Makkah and back in minutes. It will be a breakthrough,” he said.
The executive insisted that the announcement shows that air mobility in Saudi Arabia is about to enter a different era.
“When we think about what is happening in the country, Vision 2030 is about a lot of the transformations that are happening in the Kingdom and maybe today’s announcement, which we made with Lilium, is probably a testament of how Saudi national champions like Saudi Airlines walk the conversation,” Tash said.
“We want to be at the forefront of innovation, EVTOLs – or electric, vertical, take-off and landing aircraft – are the future of air mobility, I think over particularly short distances. first airline from the Middle East and North Africa in this region, the first airline to take this step towards EVTOL, I think it means a lot to us,” he added.
Tash used the example of seaplanes linking islands in the Maldives as bringing economic benefits to tourism – something he hopes will be replicated in Saudi Arabia.
The 100-vehicle commitment will also provide good value for money for his business, he added, saying: “By getting through big players like Saudia the early adoption of such technology or such innovation, it will hopefully have a very good impact on the cost.
“So if we start with Jeddah in Makkah, then with Jeddah in the Red Sea or Jeddah in AlUla URL, or Jeddah in King Abdullah Economic City, the more use cases we can find for that, the more we will have business opportunities and the less it will cost,” he said.
“So if I have a plane that goes 20 times between Jeddah and Makkah every day, it will definitely be cheaper than going six times a day,” he added.
Besides the economic arguments for buying the aircraft, there is also a clear environmental benefit.
Tash made it clear that while sustainability is a very important topic under the Vision 2030 umbrella, it is also for Saudia.
“We believe that electricity, in terms of these types of EVTOLs, is the future of aviation, and we believe that our sustainability initiatives will be further strengthened,” he said.
“This is not the only sustainability initiative we are leading. We work on so many different fronts. We have one of the youngest fleets overall in our entire fleet which also has lower emissions. We are committed to working more and more on sustainability,” added Tash.