SAUDIA to become the first national airline to offer eVTOL services in the Middle East
The Kingdom’s jetsetters can look forward to guiltfree jet setting from one end of the country to the other while exploring ancient trade routes and smart cities and attending festivals and concerts. Saudia, the national airline is planning an electric green future for its ‘premium’ clients – air-taxis that will whisk them around the country ‘oil-free’ in the process taking its place at the top of the league tables as the first airline in the MENA region to invest in sustainable air mobility.
It has entered an agreement to buy 100 eVTOLs (electric vertical take-off and landing-aircraft) and services from Lilium, a Dutch company pioneering the development of all-electric VTOLs. These will enable SAUDIA, currently serving over 100 domestic and international destinations, to offer “a state-of-the-art service with new electric point-to-point connections as well as seamless feeder connections to SAUDIA’s hubs for business class guests.”
There are important benefits of this deal for both parties:
– As Lilium’s first partnership in the Middle East, this transaction opens the door to future opportunities in Saudi Arabia as well as the greater Middle East region for the start-up while burnishing both the airline’s and the country’s green credentials.
– As a pioneering service built on innovative new technology, eVTOL travel is for now an expensive proposition. The target market is therefore at the high end with the hope being that as ‘enthusiastic early adopters of new technology’ these clients will ‘help drive the levels of adoption needed to enable eVTOL aircraft to scale’.
– For Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, growing demand for greater air-mobility across both regional and domestic air travel, thanks to frenetic growth in investment, business, leisure and entertainment opportunities, from this very segment is in turn driving investment in sustainable travel infrastructure including aviation.
– Both parties hope that the combination of SAUDIA’s extensive market knowledge and Lilium’s pioneering initiatives in sustainable aviation will eventually ‘transform the Kingdom’s domestic air transport sector.’
– With zero operating emissions, Lilium Jet will help Saudi Arabia get closer to its vision of becoming the hub of sustainable yet efficient air travel and tourism.
When will the first taxi take to the skies above Saudi Arabia?
Possibly in 2025 which is when certification from Saudi regulators is expected. Meanwhile, SAUDIA is doing the groundwork for building the operational commercial network and infrastructure that will be required to operate an eVTOL air taxi operation nationwide.
The air taxi start-up, based in Munich, Germany, hopes to become the Uber for air mobility or ultra short-haul air travel complete with a booking app for smart phones that will allow passengers to choose and book their own ‘taxi’. With teams based in Europe and the US, Lilium is accelerating the decarbonization of air travel by ‘creating a sustainable and accessible mode of high-speed, regional transportation for people and goods.’ In addition, cabin interiors designed by Diehl Aviation, which supplies aircraft systems and cabin solutions to airlines such as Airbus and Embraer, mean that passengers travel not only in luxury but also the ultimate in safety and comfort. According to its website, Lilium offers leading capacity, low noise and high performance with zero operating emissions and is planning to launch networks in Germany, the United States and Brazil as well more recently across various cities in Europe.