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Delta's New Agreement with Saudi Arabian Airline Promises New Routes and Status-matching — What to Know

Delta’s New Agreement with Saudi Arabian Airline Promises New Routes and Status-matching — What to Know

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Delta Air Lines and Saudi Arabia’s soon-to-launch carrier Riyadh Air have formed a new partnership with the hopes of Delta eventually starting flights to the Middle Eastern country.

The agreement, called a strategic cooperation memorandum of understanding, is the start of what could eventually become codeshare flights and matched loyalty status, according to Delta. The agreement is subject to regulatory approvals.

Riyadh Air plans to start operations in 2025 with its base in the capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh.

“This partnership with Riyadh Air will further Delta’s mission of connecting the world and open an array of new choices, benefits and destinations for our customers traveling to and from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement. “Most importantly, Riyadh Air shares Delta’s commitment to providing an elevated customer experience, which is why we’re looking forward to building and expanding this partnership in the months and years ahead.”

Bastian added: “It’s fitting that Riyadh Air will begin its journey the same year that Delta launches our second century of flight.”

As part of the agreement, Delta said it envisions launching a future nonstop flight between the U.S. and King Khalid International Airport (RUH) in Riyadh. It wasn’t immediately clear when that would happen.

Currently, there are no U.S. airlines that fly to Saudi Arabia, according to The Associated Press. The country’s flag carrier, Saudia, flies nonstop between Saudi Arabia and New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

Riyadh Air’s CEO, Tony Douglas, said in the statement the two airlines “share common goals and pursue the highest standards in many areas including guest experience, loyalty, and sustainability, built upon great networks and strong connectivity.” 

Saudi Arabia, a controversial destination, first opened to tourists in 2019 and has grown its tourism industry in the years since, including in the rapidly-growing AlUla area and welcoming cruises.

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