Saudi Arabia to emerge as a 'major player' in regional aviation space, Boeing says

US plane maker expects Middle East demand to double to nearly 3,000 commercial jets worth $765bn over next 20 years

A fuel-efficient Boeing 737 Max. Reuters
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Saudi Arabia has the potential to become a big player in the Middle East's aviation industry, alongside regional heavyweights UAE and Qatar, as the kingdom embarks on a plan to develop its air transport sector, a Boeing executive said.

“There are a lot of aspirations right now in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Randy Heisey, Boeing's managing director of commercial marketing for the Middle East, Africa, Russia and Central Asia regions, told reporters in Dubai on Monday.

“If they're able to execute on the Vision 2030, they may be a major player in the growth here.”

Asked whether Boeing is in discussions for aircraft orders by a planned Saudi Arabian carrier, he referred the question to the airline for details on its business plan.

“We are eager to win all good business, including that entity, so we look forward to ongoing conversations with all airlines in the region,” he said. “I can tell you our objective is to demonstrate to all airlines, and new airlines as well, the value proposition and versatility of Boeing products.”

The kingdom's Saudi Aviation Strategy calls for tripling annual passenger traffic to 330 million by 2030, boosting the number of destinations to 250 from 99 at present and establishing a new flag carrier. This strategy is backed by $100 billion in investments from the government and private sector.

Saudi Arabia's push to develop its air transport sector is part of the Vision 2030 plan aimed at diversifying its economy away from oil.

Mr Heisey was speaking during a briefing on the US manufacturer's 20-year market outlook for the Middle East and Africa.

The region’s passenger traffic and commercial fleet is projected to more than double over the next two decades, according to Boeing's latest Commercial Market Outlook.

Middle East airlines will require 2,980 new planes valued at $765bn to serve passengers and trade over the next 20 years.

This is a “slight downward revision” from last year's forecast, as it takes into account economic uncertainty and the geopolitical circumstances of the Russia-Ukraine war, Mr Heisey said.

More than two thirds of these jet deliveries will be used for growth, while a third will replace older planes with more fuel-efficient models such as the Boeing 737 Max, 787 Dreamliner and 777X by 2041.

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The region’s fleet is projected to expand 3.8 per cent to 3,400 planes by 2041 to serve fast-growing passenger traffic and air cargo demand, Boeing said.

Demand for wide-body aircraft will be robust, with 1,290 deliveries supporting a growing network of international routes. Wide-body jets account for 43 per cent of Middle East aircraft demand, the highest proportion of any region, as global carriers such as Dubai's Emirates expand their network.

The Middle East single-aisle market will more than double, reaching 1,650 jets to serve regional and international destinations.

Boeing also expects the regional airlines' passenger traffic to grow by 4 per cent annually during the forecast period, with an economic expansion of 2.7 per cent propelling demand for air travel in the long term.

The Middle East freighter fleet is projected to reach 170 by 2041, more than doubling the pre-pandemic fleet. Two of the world’s top five cargo carriers by tonnage, Qatar Airways and Emirates, are based in the region.

Updated: September 20, 2022, 3:01 AM
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