In 1945, U.S. President Roosevelt gave King Abdul Aziz a gift of a Douglas DC-3 Dakota, after their meeting in the Suez Canal on the 14th of February, 1954.
In a few months, two more DC-3s were purchased, and Saudi Arabian Airlines was set up one year later.
On the 14th of March, 1947, the first scheduled domestic flight took place. The fleet had 5 DC-3s now, and scheduled services were operated within the kingdom and to destinations such as Damascus and Cairo.
In 1949, the first Bristol 170 of an order of five joined the fleet.
Three years later, 5 Douglas DC-4s joined the fleet, and new Middle Eastern destinations were added to the network, such as Amman, Karachi, Beirut, Port Sudan, or Istanbul.
In 1954, the first pressurized aircraft joined the fleet, the Convair 340.
In the following years, new routes joined the network and, in 1959, the airline’s first maintenance center was inaugurated in Jeddah.
In 1962, two Boeing 720s joined the fleet, making Saudi Arabian Airlines the second airline in the Middle East to operate jets.
One year later, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia signed the papers that turned Saudi Arabian into a fully independent company.
On the 25th of August, 1965, Saudi Arabian Airlines joined the Arab Air Carriers Organization (AACO) as a founding member.
By 1970, DC-6s and Boeing 707s were added to the fleet, and new routes were added to the network, including European destinations like Geneva, Frankfurt, and London.
On the 1st of April, 1972, Saudi Arabian Airlines changed its name to Saudia.
During the same year, the airline received its first Boeing 737-200s.
In 1973, Saudi Arabian Airlines carried one million scheduled passengers for the first time.
By the end of the 1970s, new aircraft joined the fleet and various routes were added to the network, and the Flight Training Center of the airline opened (1979).
During the 1980s, new routes were added to the network, while some of the old aircraft were replaced (Saudi Arabian Airlines was the launch customer for the Airbus A300-600, in March, 1984).
In the 1990s, the airline continued its growth with the addition of new destinations, as well as the introduction of new aircraft, such as the Boeing 747-400, Boeing 777-200, MD-11, and the MD-90.
Starting in late September, 2001, smoking was banned on all flights to/from Europe.
In 2004, the airline carried over 15 million passengers, recording a 14% rise in profits.
Two years later, the privatization process began, starting with the catering unit.
In August, 2007, Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers approved conversion of strategic units into companies, so ground services, air cargo, technical services and the Prince Sultan Aviation Academy, as well as the catering unit, will become subsidiaries of a holding company.
In 2009, Saudi Arabian Airlines launched its flights to three Indian cities of Lucknow, Bangalore and Calicut, as well as its first Boeing 777 aircraft after modernizing its passenger cabin at the technical services center from King Abdulaziz International Airport.
In December 2010, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Air France signed a codeshare agreement.
In 2011, Saudi Arabian Airlines signed an initial agreement to join SkyTeam global alliance and began to fly to Guangzhou, with three flights weekly to the Chinese industrial city.
In 2012, Saudi Arabian Airlines joined the SkyTeam alliance on May 29. To celebrate the airline’s entry into the SkyTeam and as part of a larger rebranding initiative, the airline reverted from its historic name Saudi Arabian Airlines (in use until 1971 and reintroduced in 1997) to its abbreviated English brand name Saudia (used from 1972 to 1996).
In May 2013, during a ceremony at Seattle in the US, Saudia received its first Boeing 777-300ER aircraft with three classes, new specifications and designs. Also, Saudia launched its new Alfursan lounge for international flights at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh and unveiled its newly developed Alfursan program offering a number of benefits to customers.
In October 2013, Saudia launched flights from Riyadh to Madrid, with stopover in Jeddah, using A320, and its flight to the Canadian city of Toronto.
In December 2013, in a list of airlines representing all continents, published by Flightstats, Saudia received the second position for on-time performance of flights. At the end of 2013, Saudia achieved the highest rate in passenger transportation, with 25.24 million passengers carried on 177,435 flights and an average on-time performance of 90.46%.
In April 2014, Saudia launched the first direct flight from Dammam to Istanbul, the first flight to Los Angeles, its third US destination after Washington and New York. Its flight to Manchester in the UK was also re-launched.
At the 2014 Skytrax World Airline Awards, Saudia was the winner of the World’s Best Economy Class Airline Seat and the Best Airline First Class Comfort Amenities. The airline was awarded the 4-Star Airline Rating, a seal of Quality Approval currently awarded to only 35 airlines.
In May 2015, the year that Saudia celebrated its 70th anniversary, Saudia launched its five-year strategic plan. As part of the SV2020 Transformation Plan, new aircraft are to join the Saudia fleet, allowing the airline to introduce new destinations and to offer increased capacity on existing routes. By 2020, the ongoing investment will bring the fleet to 200 aircraft with an average fleet age to 3.75 years.
In 2016, Saudia launched Al-BAIRAQ flights. Provided by Saudia affiliated with Saudia Private Aviation, Saudia ALBAYRAQ is a new business air bridge between Jeddah and Riyadh, an exclusive scheduled service for VIPs with 6 daily flights offering a unique travel experience through private terminals and lounges and on board the Airbus A319 with 50 VIP seats in a one-class configuration.
In 2017, Flyadeal, Saudia’s low-cost subsidiary founded in 2016, commenced operations with flights to domestic destinations. As of June 2018, flyadeal operates to eight domestic destinations.
In June 2018, Sudia was the first airline in the Middle East to launch free Whatsapp Service on all domestic and international flights (if the aircraft is equipped with connectivity). At the 2017 Skytrax Airline Awards, Saudia won the “World’s Most Improved Airline” award.
During its history, Saudi Arabian Airlines/Saudia was involved in only a few deadly incidents, the first one occurring in late August, 1980, when Saudia Flight 163, a Lockheed L-1011-200 TriStar, was completely destroyed by fire at Riyadh airport, killing all 287 passengers and 14 crew on board. The second deadliest incident involving the airline took place in mid-November, 1996, when Saudia Flight 763 and Air Kazahstan Flight 1907 collided in Indian airspace, and all 349 people on board the two aircraft perished.