Delta Air Lines Strikes Deal With Riyadh Air to Operate Flights Between US and Saudi Arabia

By Trisha Andrada

Jul 10, 2024 06:37 AM EDT

Delta Air Lines and startup Riyadh Air announced a collaboration on Tuesday to connect the United States (US) and Saudi Arabia with regularly operated flights.

US airlines do not operate flights to Saudi Arabia. Saudia Airline, the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, operates nonstop flights from Riyadh to New York, Dulles International Airport near Washington, DC, and Los Angeles instead.

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A Boeing 767 passenger aircraft of Delta airlines arrives from Dublin at JFK International Airport in New York as the Manhattan skyline looms in the background on February 7, 2024. (Photo : CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Riyadh Air to Launch Passenger Flights Next Summer

Riyadh Air, an initiative to diversify Saudi Arabia's economy away from its reliance on oil and increase tourism, is set to launch passenger flights next summer with the support of the sovereign wealth fund.  

According to CBS News, neither Riyadh nor Delta provided any financial information or a start date for flights within the scope of their partnership. The CEOs of both airlines have said that their companies would not be purchasing shares in the other.

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Delta and Riyadh Air Propose Codesharing

Delta CEO Ed Bastian and Riyadh Air CEO Tony Douglas have expressed their intention to sell tickets on each other's flights, a practice called codesharing. The United States Transportation Department must approve this practice.

Both executives hinted that the alliance could become a full-fledged business partnership. If this is the goal, that move would need protection from antitrust rules in the US so the carriers can work together on pricing and revenue sharing.

According to Bastian, most of the initial traffic will consist of flights bound for the US, but this will gradually level off as more and more people visit Saudi Arabia.

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