Saudi Arabian Airlines budget unit to fly leased Airbus A320s

By By Nael Shyoukhi and Alexander Cornwell Features Reuters

Saudi Arabian Airlines' budget carrier Flyadeal will lease six Airbus A320s, an Airbus executive said on Monday, a sign that the European planemaker might again have pipped Boeing in the race to win a big Middle East deal.

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Flyadeal, which is set to start services in mid-2017, is aiming to operate a fleet of up to 50 narrow body jets by 2020 and Saleh al-Jasser, director general of state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines, said last year Flyadeal would operate leased Airbus or Boeing jets.

Airbus's Middle East Managing Director Fouad Attar told Reuters Flyadeal would operate six of his planes. He was speaking on the sidelines of a news conference in Riyadh announcing an 80 aircraft deal with Saudi Arabia's only operating low-cost airline, flynas.

An Airbus spokesman later confirmed to Reuters by phone the aircraft type and leasing arrangements for Flyadeal.

The current model A320s are being leased through an undisclosed leasor and delivery starts in the second half of the year, the spokesman said, adding that no further deals had been done with Flyadeal beyond the six aircraft.

Saudi Arabian Airlines did not immediately respond an to emailed request for comment.

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An Airbus A320neo, the latest version of the jet, was displayed at Flyadeal's launch in April 2016.

The Airbus spokesman also confirmed Saudi start-up SaudiGulf Airlines, which recently started operations, has taken delivery of the four current model A320s it ordered.

(Reporting by Nael Shyoukhi in Riyadh and by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; Editing by Greg Mahlich)