Saudia—formerly known as Saudi Arabian Airlines—has signed with Lilium to acquire 100 Lilium Jet eVTOL aircraft as part of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) tied to the proposed development and operation by the Saudi flag carrier of an advanced air mobility network across the kingdom. The companies signed the MOU Wednesday during the sixth edition of the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh.
The airline said its purchase will accompany new electric point-to-point connections and seamless feeder connections to its hubs for business-class guests. Lilium Jet promotes its flexible cabin architecture as ideal for meeting the needs of the premium market, which the company believes can help drive the early adoption of eVTOL aircraft.
Saudia also expects to support Lilium with the needed regulatory approval processes in Saudi Arabia for certification of the Lilium Jet and any other associated approvals.
“Saudia, building on its commitment to be an industry-leading airline committed to sustainability, considers our eVTOL network project with Lilium to be an undertaking of great significance for the kingdom’s aviation industry and will contribute effectively to spurring sustainable tourism in Saudi using zero-emission aviation,” said Saudia CEO Ibrahim Koshy. “Saudia intends to meet a growing demand for regional air mobility and offer our valued guests a superior on-board experience. The potential for such an airborne transit network is limitless.”
For Lilium, the deal marks its first such partnership in the Middle East, according to Lilium vice chairman Alexander Asseily.
The proposed arrangement remains subject to the parties completing a feasibility assessment, agreeing to commercial terms, and satisfaction of “certain conditions” related to a definitive contract.
Originally expecting to win certification of the seven-seat LiliumJet in 2024, Lilium in March said it pushed back the projected timeline to achieve approval by potentially 12 or more months into 2025.
The latest Lilium deal follows a separate agreement announced last December between northwestern Saudi regional development project Neom and Volocopter aimed at launching urban air mobility services by 2024 with 10 two-seat VoloCity aircraft and five fully autonomous VoloDrone cargo-carrying vehicles.
Under the agreement signed on December 1, the partners plan to develop what they called a public vertical mobility system in Neom on the country’s Red Sea coast. Plans call for the development of a new “industrial city” called Oxagon and a residential community called The Line that will extend for just over 100 miles and house a population of one million people.