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Where Did Saudia Fly Its Boeing 747-100s?



Saudia has been a very large Boeing 747 operator over the years, with a huge range of types used. It had 22 B747-100s in all, with seven operational between 2000 and 2010, when the type was retired. The year 2006 had the most 741 flights in that decade. Where were they used?

This B747-100, HZ-AIA, was delivered in 1981 and operated with the carrier until 2007. Photo: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt via Wikimedia.

Saudia has used some 123 747s in passenger and freight configurations over the years, as detailed below. Some freighters are still used, although the airline’s passenger fleet is now all about twins.

  1. Boeing 747-100 (including the SR)
  2. B747-200
  3. B747-200F
  4. B747-300
  5. B747-400 (including combi)
  6. B747-400F
  7. B747-8F
  8. B747SP
Saudi Arabian was a very important 747 operator over the years, with large numbers of types operated, including the SP. Photo: John Taggart via Wikimedia.

22 747-100s

Saudia, which is the Middle East’s largest airline this summer, operated 22 B747-100s in all, including the short-range variant, 747SR-81s, leased from Qatar Airways. Seven 741s were still in service after the year 2000, examining‘s database reveals.

The airline’s 741s were not retired from scheduled service until January 2010, according to Cirium’s schedules data. Two round-trips from Jeddah to Khartoum were operated on January 5th and 12th.

The B747-100 was until 2010. Photo: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt via Wikimedia.

The year 2006

The year 2006 saw Saudia operate some 5,031 non-stop flights by the 741, Cirium shows, with just shy of two million scheduled seats by the type. That year, some 15 years ago, the carrier had a motley collection of passenger types, as follows. All have been retired.

  1. MD-90: 54,920 non-stop flights scheduled
  2. Boeing 777-200ERs: 23,085
  3. Embraer 170s: 12,429
  4. Airbus A300s 12,389
  5. B747s: 14,897

The 747 had about one in ten passenger fights that year, with the B747-300 and -400 used alongside the older -100. Perhaps surprisingly, the 741 was the second-most-used 747 type, with only the -300 having more flights in that year.

What a throwback photo! This aircraft, ‘India Bravo, was used only by Saudia, with its life spanning about 30 years. Photo: Kambui via Wikimedia.

10 countries saw Saudia’s 741s

Saudia’s B747-100s had a sizeable domestic network, including those operated before flights continued internationally. Some 10 international countries welcomed the type on a scheduled basis, as follows. With a strong focus on visiting friends and relatives (VFR) and religious demand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sudan, and Nigeria the main recipients of the type in 2006.

  • Algeria
  • Bangladesh
  • Egypt
  • India
  • Iran
  • Kuwait
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
Here are Saudia’s 747-100 routes in 2006. Bangladesh was the leading international country for 741 flights. Image: GCMap.

24 routes were operated

With approximately 718 flights, Riyadh to Abha, some 531 miles apart, was Saudia’s leading 741 route. Indeed, the type was used to Abha, not that far from the Yemen border, from Saudi Arabia’s core cities of Jeddah, Riyadh, and Damman. Abha had around 1,422 flights in all.

Next up was the core domestic route, Jeddah to Riyadh, although this includes services that continued elsewhere. For example, some Jeddah-Dhaka flights routed via Medinah or Dammam, while a number of Jeddah-Lahore and Jeddah-Colombo services were via Riyadh or Dammam. However, Saudia‘s top-10 non-stop flights by the 741 were:

  1. Riyadh-Dhaka
  2. Jeddah-Khartoum
  3. Riyadh-Lahore
  4. Lahore-Jeddah
  5. Dammam-Dhaka
  6. Jeddah-Kano
  7. Riyadh-Khartoum
  8. Jeddah-Algiers
  9. Jeddah-Kuwait
  10. Riyadh-Colombo
Riyadh-Dhaka was the top international 741 route. Image: GCMap.

Riyadh to Dhaka

In 2006, Saudia used the B747-100, B747-300, and B777-200ER from Riyadh to Dhaka. The 741 was the most used, with typically five-weekly services by the type. In a week in January, for example, they left Riyadh on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays at 01:25 local time and arrived back at 14:45.

Did you ever fly the B747-100? Let us know in the comments.

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Transportes Aeromar signs ATR aircraft propeller maintenance contract



Mexican carrier Transportes Aeromar has awarded a contract to Piedmont Propulsion Systems to support its next-generation ATR 42 and 72 aircraft fleet.

As part of the multi-year contract, Piedmont Propulsion Systems will provide complete propeller maintenance for the aircraft.

The financial details of the contract have not been disclosed.

Transportes Aeromar procurement and supply chain manager Javier Tellez Vidal said: “After a competitive market study of the alternatives, the decision to choose Piedmont Propulsion Systems made both technical and financial sense for us.”

Piedmont Propulsion Systems is a wholly owned subsidiary of First Aviation Services and a verified propeller maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) provider.

It offers new proprietary replacement parts and repairs certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The company’s customer base includes Air Canada Jazz, WestJet, Lion Air Group, FedEx Express, Lufthansa Technik, Bombardier Aerospace and the US Department of Defence.

Last month, it became an independent MRO facility to offer complete major inspection support for the Model 568F propeller, including the removal and re-application of the blade compression wrap.

The propeller is fitted on the Next-Gen ATR turboprop aircraft family.

Piedmont Propulsion Systems general manager Sammy Oakley said: “Piedmont Propulsion Systems has invested extensively in the ATR/568F platform which allows us to provide significant cost savings for our customers. We’re excited to continue and grow our relationship with Javier Tellez and his team.”

Headquartered in Westport, Connecticut, First Aviation Services provides component repair and overhaul, PMA parts manufacturing and spare part management for the global aviation industry.

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Virgin Hopes To Launch Satellites From A Boeing 747 Next Week



Virgin Orbit has officially set a date for its ‘Tubular Bells’ mission. The Boeing 747-400 packed with seven satellites from three countries will take off on June 30th or in the early days of July, if all goes well. The takeoff, or launch, will take place from Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert.

Virgin Orbit uses a former Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 for its space missions. Photo: Virgin Orbit

All set

In exciting news today, the Richard Branson-backed Virgin Orbit has announced plans for its first Tubular Bells missions. The launch comes after two planned demonstration flights, one unsuccessful one in May 2020 and a successful one in January 2021, paving the way for this first formal flight.

Onboard this aircraft is seven satellites, made from commercial and military missions. Three are CubeSat satellites are for the US Department of Defense Space Test Program. Three are for a private Polish firm SatRevolution, which is launching its first optical satellites as part of its 14-satellite constellation. The final satellite is a CubeSat for the Royal Netherlands Air Force, it’s first for military purposes.

The aircraft comes equipped with ‘Launcher One,’ which contains the satellites. Photo: Virgin Orbit

Virgin uses the CubeSat technology for its missions, which are miniaturized satellites that are only 10cm³ and weigh up to 1.3 kilograms. This means they can easily fit in the underwing ‘Launcher One’ on the specially retrofitted 747.

Virgin Orbit CubeSat
Several CubeSat’s can be carried on the 747 for lower earth orbital missions. Photo: Virgin Orbit

Date Set

In a statement today, Virgin Orbit announced that the date for the first Tubular Bells flight will be June 30th or within the first week of July. This means the launch is just over a week away and marks a big step for the company.

In recent weeks, the special 747-400 (aptly nicknamed ‘Cosmic Girl’) has been undergoing a series of tests. This includes high altitude flight-like pressure tests filled with cryogenic propellants. This is meant to simulate the flights the aircraft will undertake very soon and one that will hopefully go as smoothly as the previous demonstration.

Virgin Orbit Boeing 747-400
The 747 has been undergoing a series of tests to prepare for its first formal Tubular Bells flights. Photo: Virgin Orbit

As we draw closer to the launch, Virgin Orbit will confirm the final date. This will likely depend on flight preparedness, weather conditions, and thousands of other technical factors. Keep an eye out for the final announcement in the next few days.


The aircraft carrying out the first launch flights is Boeing 747-400 registered N744VG and belongs to Virgin Galactic. However, Cosmic Girl began her life as passenger aircraft for Virgin Atlantic in October 2001, registration G-VWOW. After carrying up to 386 passengers for over 14 years, the aircraft was sold to Virgin Galactic to serve as a launchpad for space missions.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 G-VWOW
The passenger 747 has been reconfigured with space for satellite launchers and will likely remain in the fleet for years to come. Photo: Alan Wilson via Wikimedia Commons

As Virgin Orbit draws closer to regular orbital deployment flights, expect to see the excitement around the industry grow. Hopefully, in the near future, space travel will become a common phenomenon for average passengers too.

What do you think about Virgin Orbit’s upcoming flight? Let us know in the comments!

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Air India Overtakes SpiceJet To Become Second Largest Domestic Carrier



As the second wave impacted traffic in May, there has been a change in the list of India’s biggest airlines. Air India has officially overtaken SpiceJet to become India’s second-largest airline, with a market share of over 20%. However, total capacity and passenger traffic dropped to a pandemic-era low due to the surge of cases in India.

Air India A321 Getty
Air India’s market share has been slipping since last year, but has jumped this month. Photo: Getty Images


According to DGCA traffic data, May saw a shuffling of airline rankings in India. While IndiGo remains the biggest airline in India, and grew its market share slightly to 55.3%, there were changes further down the list. Most notably, Air India overtook SpiceJet to become India’s second-largest airline by passengers carried in May.

SpiceJet’s market share slipped from 12.3% to 9.4%, while Air India’s jumped from 12% to 20.3% between April and May. However, the flag carrier’s increase is also due to the shrinking market share of GoAir, AirAsia India, and Vistara.

SpiceJet 737
As load factors fell dramatically, SpiceJet slashed schedules, reducing its market share. Photo: Getty Images

It is important to note that May is a bit of an anomaly. The start of the month saw COVID-19 cases in India reach global highs, reaching over daily 414,000 cases at the start of the month. This meant passenger traffic nosedived, as travelers were understandably scared to get on planes. In total, only 2.1 million passengers took to the skies in May 2021, down from 7.8 million in March ’21.

Different story

While Air India’s gains show a big jump in passengers carried, passenger load factors (PLFs) tell a different story. SpiceJet continued to have the highest load factor in May as well, at 64%. Meanwhile, Air India’s PLF fell to a meager 39.3%, meaning less than 40% of its flights were full on average during the month.

This means SpiceJet’s decision to cut capacity likely helped preserve cash as it tried to survive this crisis. Meanwhile, Air India continued to operate capacity and deepened its losses, which are being funded by the government for now.

SpiceJet Q400
SpiceJet’s use of the smaller de Havilland Dash 8 Q400 means higher load factors as well. Photo: Getty Images

GoAir had the second-highest PLF in May at 63.3%, only down from 65.7% in April, although its market share slipped to an all-time low of 3.0%. IndiGo’s PLF slipped from 58.7% to 51.2% as it continued to fly a large part of its network and carried 1.17 million passengers.

Eye on June

Traffic data from June will shed light on whether the change in rankings was a pandemic anomaly or a permanent shift (which seems likely). While traffic has increased in recent weeks, it remains far below levels even in seen in early 2021. This means carriers continue to burn cash at a high rate and fly fewer flights.

IndiGo Airbus A320-200
IndiGo has seen its booking rise quickly as cases fall in India. Photo: Getty Images

The government has also capped flights at 50% of scheduled capacity, preventing airlines from quickly adding flights on high-demand routes. This means recovery to even 80% remains a few quarters away, while a full recovery seems out of reach until early 2022. For now, Indian airlines are more focused on saving cash and surviving the crisis than increasing their market share.

What do you think about India’s aviation recovery? Will these figures hold? Let us know in the comments!

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Opinion: Will Online Meetings Replace Business Travel?



Depending on who you ask, business travel is significantly changed or just taking a couple of years off. Zoom was great fun for a month or two, but it got old fast for most people. But Zoom and the many other video conferencing offerings are cheap, efficient, and a potentially serious threat to the future of business travel.

Has Zoom changed business travel forever? Photo: Ontario International Airport

Business travelers make up 12% of all travelers but account for 75% of profits

Business travel is travel undertaken for work purposes. That could be to attend a meeting, convention, or site visit. The common factor is you interact with people face-to-face. Business travel was worth US$1.28 trillion in 2019. That didn’t all go to airlines. Hotels, convention centers, restaurants, and bars are also big beneficiaries.

Business travelers are usually big-spending travelers. That makes them important from a profit perspective. Business travelers accounted for just 12% of the world’s total airline passengers in 2019, but they contributed about 75% of the airline industry’s profits.

Naturally, airlines everywhere want them back. In their public statements, most airline CEOs are upbeat about the return of business travel. They correctly point out video conferencing can never replace a handshake or quiet one-on-one conversation.

“I don’t believe the people who say ‘everything will be digital in the future,” SWISS International Air Lines CEO Dieter Vranckx told the recent Routes Reconnected Conference, “I think the balance will be in the middle.”

“Our bet is that business travel is going to come back, and that is because business travel is about human relationships and human interactions,” says United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby. “And as tough as this pandemic has been, it has not changed human desire to be together.”

“Businessmen like to face people, they like to feel people, they like to notice the body language,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker has said.

Business travelers make up 12% of all travelers but account for 75% of profits. Photo: Ontario International Airport

Can a laptop camera replace a coffee together?

Airline CEOs have a clear interest in promoting business travel. They couch their messaging in terms of public safety, timelines, and best practice, but the messaging is all about getting people onto planes and revenue into the airline’s coffers.

Video conferencing bosses have a different agenda to push. They want more people working home using their software. Zoom is the best-known beneficiary of this trend. Zoom’s earning have increased tenfold in the last year. But even Zoom’s CEO,  Eric Yuan, thinks his product has its limitations. Video-conferencing may replace a day return flight to nut out some terms in a contract, but it won’t replace that spur-of-the-moment face-to-face conversation that led to the deal in the first place.

Video conferencing bosses like Yuan see their software helping to entrench the hybrid workplace, where employees split their time between working from home and going into the office. Interestingly, that may increase business travel down the track.

Video conferencing bosses see hybrid workplaces as the future for many. Photo: Getty Images

Finding the medium between being at home and getting out and about

Eric Yuan sees a future where employees work from home three days a week and perhaps hop on a flight Wednesday night to whizz over to the office two states away for the rest of the week. Scott Kirby has also suggested that this model might be the future of work for many people. It is one reason why Kirby has remained upbeat about the return of business travel. All those mid-week business travelers would be a tasty revenue stream for airlines like United.

It could work out nicely for both airline and video conferencing CEOs and shareholders if that pans out. After a bumpy year with many online meetings, most people agree there is a happy medium between being at home and getting out and about. Most people also agree there is only so much video conferencing the average human can cheerfully tolerate. Kirby says.

“Business travel is not about transactions. It’s about relationships, building and maintaining relationships, and you just can’t do that through video, and so I continue–we’ve made the bet that business travel is coming back.”

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