SAUDIA in the 70s: Airline celebrates firsts and the new


The 1970s saw SAUDIA (Saudi Arabian Airlines) ticking off new events all throughout the decade, beginning with a new Data Processing Center in 1971, along with a new route to Rome from Jeddah. It was also in this year that the airline began its first nonstop all-cargo service between the Kingdom and Europe. Rounding at the year, the first branch of a new modern runway was opened by SAUDIA in Tabuk.

The following year, Saudi Arabian Airlines adopted new livery and took the name SAUDIA. By this time, the airline was flying to 49 destinations on 3 continents. It was in this year, 1972, that the airline received its first 5 737-200s which replaced the DC-9s, Convair 340s, and DC-3s, making its fleet the most modern in the Middle East, with 2 B-707s, 2 B-720s, and 5 737-200s, making it possible to link 20 cities in the Kingdom. The airline’s fleet would later grow to a total of 20.

By the time 1973 rolled around, Saudi Arabian Airlines had carried one million scheduled passengers for the first time, and special flights were planned for the mass movement of teachers. The next year, new routes opened to Paris and Muscat, plus a direct Medina-Karachi route. Two wide-bodied, 241-seat Tri-Stars were ordered from Lockheed, which would grow to a total of 20. In this same year, SAUDIA started flights to Istanbul, Beirut, Damascus, Amman, and Cairo from Tabuk.

In 1975, the airline replaced the DC-3s in its fleet with Twin jet Fairchild F-27J, 48-seat turboprops, and to celebrate the airline’s 30th anniversary, 2 more B-707s were purchased, and the first 20 L1011 Tri-Stars went into service.

The Arabian Express, a no-reservation shuttle service, was introduced in 1976 to handle the booming business traffic on the intensively-traveled Jeddah/Riyadh route. This service was extended to Dhahran, and a Special Flight Services (SFS) Division was established for government and VIP service. The following year, 2 377-seat Boeing 747-200B entered service.

Saudi Arabian Airlines switched over to its new Automated Reservations System in 1978, and Jeddah reservations installed a Collins Automated Call Distribution (ACD) System, handling incoming reservation calls in an organized, systematic manner. Service started in this year to Athens, Kano, and Stockholm.

As the decade came to a close, in 1979, SAUDIA opened a Flight Training Center and also commenced joint operations with Pan Am from Dhahran to New York using long-range Boeing B747-SPs to achieve nonstop capability. Five Tri-Stars joined the fleet to wind up this decade of firsts and celebrating the new.