Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) CEO Jaan Albrecht told ATW the carrier is evaluating a major widebody order within the next six months—which could be either an Airbus A350 or Boeing 787—and is considering new long-haul routes to North America.

“We have successful Boeing 787 and 777 operations. I guess with 35 777s, we would have enough aircraft of this size in the fleet,” he said, adding that “maybe a smaller-scale aircraft, more like the 787 or A350, would be the right size.”

Albrecht said Saudia took delivery of 82 new aircraft over the last two years, with 42 more to come within the next two years. These include the first of three Boeing 787-10s, which will come this year, with seven more of the type in 2020.

Currently, the SkyTeam member operates 13 of the smaller 787-9 variant.

“All our ordered 35 Airbus A320neos have been changed to the larger version A321neo. We have decided that 15 of these 35 A321neos will become A321LRs and will be installed with sleeper seats,” Albrecht said.

ATW understands these 35 Airbus narrowbodies will be on lease; the first aircraft would be delivered in 2021.

“With the A321LR, we could reach every airport in Europe, which will allow Saudia to grow there, like in Malaga (Spain), Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Athens (Greece), as well destinations in Eastern Europe,” Albrecht said.

On existing routes, frequencies will be increased to destinations including Frankfurt (Germany) and Vienna (Austria), which will become daily A321 services.

Saudia plans to install 20 lie-flat business-class seats on eight A320s. The aircraft also offers 96 seats in economy.

Saudia is also evaluating adding new long-haul routes to North America, and codesharing with SkyTeam partner Delta Air Lines, such as to Atlanta and Detroit.

Kurt Hofmann, hofmann.aviation@netway.at