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Riyadh Air Secures Key Partnerships with Delta, Asian, and Middle Eastern Airlines Ahead of Launch

  • Riyadh Air has signed several preliminary partnership agreements, focusing on Asia and China in particular.
  • Its latest agreement was with Delta Air Lines, which included potential promises of a flight from ATL to RUH.
  • However, none of the agreements have been finalized.

Riyadh Air, which has recently partnered with Delta Air Lines, is yet to launch operations, has hunted partnerships with other airlines as well, including carriers from China and the Middle East, ensuring that even as it begins operations, its customers will still be able to reach various destinations in the early stages of Riyadh Air’s ramp-up.

Emphasis on China and South East Asia

Out of all the preliminary agreements, in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), Riyadh Air has seemingly put a lot of focus on China and the South East Asia region, signing agreements with three airlines based there.

During the last International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in June 2024, Riyadh Air signed agreements with three airlines, namely Air China, China Eastern Airlines, EgyptAir, and Singapore Airlines.

Barring EgyptAir, the three carriers – alluded to by their names – are based in Asia. Riyadh Air and Air China signed a MoU, with the former airline sharing a few details about the agreement, yet it noted that the two carriers would work on cooperating on interline traffic, codeshare flights, and more.

The airline shared even fewer details when talking about the MoU with China Eastern Airlines, only stating that the latter airline’s new flights to Riyadh King Khalid International Airport (RUH) demonstrated a shared commitment to enhancing connectivity while also expanding collaboration in trade, tourism, and culture.

Still, Tony Douglas, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Riyadh Air, emphasized that China was a key market for the newest airline in the Middle East, with the new connections potentially driving economic growth in both countries.

Riyadh Air was more willing to unveil more about the partnership with Singapore Airlines, which was announced on June 4. While the agreement was also a MoU, the statement detailed that the agreement focused on interline connectivity, subject to regulatory approval. Furthermore, the airlines would explore codeshare agreements, reciprocal frequent flier program benefits, and other areas that would result in a long-term partnership.

Strengthening presence in the local market

However, Riyadh Air has also established partnerships, or at least signed more MoUs with airlines that are more local to Saudi Arabia and the whole Middle East region. Its first-ever MoU was with SAUDIA, the other Saudi Arabia-owned airline.

The agreement was announced in November 2023, with the goal of launching codeshare flights and offering other benefits to both airlines’ passengers, including earning miles on each others’ flights and loyalty programs. At the time, Douglas remarked that the agreement with SAUDIA should play,

Another ‘local’ airline that Riyadh Air has signed a MoU was Turkish Airlines, announcing the memorandum on December 4, 2023. Once again, the Saudi Arabian carrier promised an exploration of reciprocal benefits, including potential interline and codeshare agreements.

The partnership with EgyptAir was more of the same, with Riyadh Air promising “a partnership that allows guests a greater choice when traveling between Riyadh and Cairo” and connectivity to other destinations.

Exploring the US market

The first airline it signed an agreement in the Western hemisphere was Delta Air Lines. Once again, it was a MoU. The agreement entailed that subject to regulatory approvals, both airlines would launch interline and codeshare flights.

However, the MoU also covered a deeper partnership, which includes joint work on loyalty, passenger experience, digital transformation, and aviation services, including maintenance, ground handling, and training.

At the same time, the statement teased that Delta Air Lines could potentially launch a flight from Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) to RUH, which would mark its return to the region.

Data from the aviation analytics company Cirium showed that Delta Air Lines last served the Middle East, excluding Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV), in 2016, when it operated flights to Dubai International Airport (DXB). The airline flew its last flights to DXB with a Boeing 777-200LR in February 2016.

Source: simpleflying

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