Riyadh Air cooperates with Delta Air Lines to expand network before launch of 2024

(MENAFN) Riyadh Air, a Saudi startup owned by the Public Investment Fund and based in Riyadh, has announced a partnership with U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines as it prepares to launch commercial operations next year. This collaboration aims to enhance Riyadh Air's potential network by establishing connections with North American destinations. Riyadh Air will be the second national carrier of Saudi Arabia, alongside Saudi Airlines, which is headquartered in Jeddah.

The partnership designates Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines as Riyadh Air’s exclusive North American partner, granting Riyadh Air's customers access to numerous U.S. destinations. In return, Delta Air Lines customers will gain new travel options in Saudi Arabia, with Delta planning to introduce direct flights to Riyadh in the future. Currently, no U.S. airlines operate flights to Saudi Arabia, making this partnership a significant development in U.S.-Saudi aviation relations.

This collaboration marks Delta Air Lines' first partnership with a Gulf carrier, indicating a strategic shift from the previous decade when Delta, United, and American Airlines sought to limit competition from Gulf state carriers. However, recent trends show changing dynamics, with United establishing a codeshare agreement with Emirates in 2022 and American Airlines forming a similar partnership with Qatar Airways.

The partnership between Delta Air Lines and Riyadh Air will involve code-sharing, allowing the airlines to sell seats on each other's flights, subject to regulatory approval. The companies also plan to evolve this partnership into a joint venture, enabling them to collaborate on network planning, which would require antitrust immunity.

Riyadh Air's strategy focuses on building its network through bilateral partnerships and codeshare agreements rather than relying solely on its own fleet or joining a formal airline alliance. Last month, Riyadh Air announced partnerships with Singapore Airlines and Air China, further expanding its global reach through strategic alliances.



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