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Saudia turns to Airbus, Boeing wide-body jets amid single-aisle shortage

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Saudia Group is in talks with Airbus and Boeing over ordering wide-body jets to increase its capacity as planemakers face constraints in production slots of narrow-body aircraft, a spokesperson for the group told Reuters.

Saudi Arabia is investing billions of dollars to diversify its economy away from fossil fuel and has an ambitious aviation plan © X

Saudia Group is in talks with Airbus and Boeing over ordering wide-body jets to increase its capacity as planemakers face constraints in production slots of narrow-body aircraft, a spokesperson for the group told Reuters.

The state-owned group, which owns Saudia Airlines and budget carrier Flyadeal, last month ordered 105 narrowbody Airbus planes but had a requirement for 180, said Saudia Group General Manager, Communications and Media Affairs, Abdullah Alshahrani.

Air travel is surging post pandemic and demand for planes is outstripping production as supply chains struggle to ramp up at the same pace. Airbus in January said it is sold out until the end of the decade for single-aisle jets.

Lack of production slots at Airbus, especially for the A320, forced the group to look at wide-body jets, Alshahrani said in an interview on Thursday on the sidelines of the CAPA India aviation conference in New Delhi.

Alshahrani said the group had been "lucky" to get the 105-plane order with Airbus but needed more, adding that Saudia is looking at the Boeing 787 and Airbus A330.

The number of wide-body jets, which will serve both Saudia Airlines and Flyadeal, is under discussion but Saudia Group will place an order this year, he added.

Flyadeal's CEO told Reuters earlier this week that it is studying a possible order for between 10 and 20 wide-body jets.

Saudi Arabia is investing billions of dollars to diversify its economy away from fossil fuel and has an ambitious aviation plan, with new airlines, jet orders and potentially a huge international airport as it takes on regional rival and current Gulf travel hub, the UAE.

The kingdom is also trying to get China's COMAC to set up a local production facility as the Chinese planemaker steps up efforts to sell overseas and break into a passenger jet market dominated by Airbus and Boeing.

Alshahrani said Saudia Group plans to visit COMAC's China facility in September to test the jets so they can be considered in future, but it was "not the time" to place an order.

COMAC's planes fly almost exclusively within China and it is yet to receive benchmark certifications from the United States or the European Union.

Saudia Group flies to 100 destinations and plans to increase this to 150 by the end of the decade as it takes deliveries of 200 new planes, including the Airbus A321XLRs.

India is an important growth market for Saudia Group, which plans to regain share lost to rivals with more direct flights, new destinations and improved plane cabins.

Alshahrani said the group is also in talks with Air India for a codeshare agreement.

"We want to work with Indian carriers closely on any type of cooperation to increase and offer good options to the Indian and Saudi passengers," he said.

Reporting by Shivansh Tiwary

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