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As Saudi Arabia opens up to tourism, its national carrier prepares for its role of bringing visitors from around the globe to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has bold ambitions to open to tourists and its airline industry is a big part of the plan. Riyadh Air, a new carrier established with support of the Public Investment Fund, ordered a large number of Boeing 787 aircraft in 2023 with the aim to start operations in 2025.

At the same time, Saudia, the national carrier, is working to transform itself. 

Saudia revealed its new brand identity and livery during an event in Jeddah on September 30. The day is the anniversary of the late King Abdulaziz’s first flight aboard a “Saudi Arabian” DC-3 aircraft from Afif to Taif in 1945. U.S. President Roosevelt had gifted the aircraft.

The rebrand marked the beginning of a new era for Saudia, the airline said. It would emphasize customer service, digital, and celebrate Saudi culture.

Saudia’s New Look

The look goes back to a logo, font, and livery used by the carrier between 1971 and 1996.

Saudia collaborated with Landor & Fitch to refresh the brand, which uses green, blue, and sand colors and features a large palm tree against a triangular background reminiscent of an aircraft shape. The new brand imagery attempts to stay rooted in the Saudi culture and roots of the airline, but is contemporary enough to portray the airline in a new light. 

There are also new uniforms for cabin crew and ground staff. Saudia had planned a rollout of a new uniform in 2020, but kept those plans on hold due to the pandemic. The new uniforms are dark blue, with a mix of beige, gold, royal blue and purple, inspired by the Saudi Arabian culture and landscape. 

Most business units of the airline have been renamed to align with the new corporate identity. For instance, Saudia Aerospace Engineering Industries is now Saudia Technic, and the Prince Sultan Aviation Academy is now renamed the Saudia Academy. 

Saudia, which has been investing in its passenger experience over the years, advanced 11 places to the 23rd spot in the Skytrax airlines ranking of the World Best Airlines 2023. Despite solid service, Saudia does not compete with the likes of Emirates and Qatar Airways in the Middle East. The airline may also have been passed on by some customers because it doesn’t serve alcohol.  Whether Riyadh Air or Saudia will serve alcohol in the future is still a big question.

Saudia’s Guest Experience

The rebranding is not just about colors and fonts. The airline is working on the guest experience, internally known as the “Shine” programme. The aim is for an authentic Saudi experience. This includes a distinctive fragrance and sound, and locally inspired cuisine. For instance, service on board Saudia starts with arabic coffee and Saudi dates. 

Saudia has also invested in tech, with its generative artificial intelligence virtual assistant based on OpenAI’s ChatGPT 4, which enables guests to complete an entire transaction.

Saudia is helping advance Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030: The airline’s goal is to bring around 330 million visitors to the Kingdom by 2030. This is a departure from the earlier mandate for the airline, which was to provide a service for Saudi Arabia’s residents to connect with the world. 

The airline ordered 39 Boeing 787 aircraft this year and intends to expand its fleet to 318, including the LCC unit Flyadeal, as reported by Flight Global. The airline group wants to fly to 175 destinations. It already has A320family aircraft on order, including the A321XLRs.

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Tags: middle east, saudi arabia, saudia airlines, tourism, Travel Trends

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