From the Cargo Facts Archives comes Saudi Arabian Airlines’ first MD-11F, seen here on the ramp at Long Beach, where it was built, in the fading light of a winter afternoon in December, 1997. HZ-ANA (msn: 48773) was the first of Saudi Arabian’s four new-build MD-11Fs – three of which were delivered that December, and all four are still flying with the Jeddah-based carrier. At the time, the carrier had just changed its branding from Saudia to Saudi Arabian Airlines, a change which it reversed in late 2012 just after joining the Skyteam Alliance (it is now Saudia once again).
Although these MD-11Fs are a significant part of the Saudia Cargo fleet, they’re only one component of what has to be one of the industry’s most diverse fleets. Saudia also operates two 747 classics (one leased, one owned since delivery in 1989), and leases a large amount of capacity from other carriers, primarily Air Atlanta Icelandic, which operates a number of 747-400F, BCF, and pax models for Saudia. One Airbus A310F is leased from ULS Cargo.
In addition to this main deck capacity, Saudia operates a significant number of wide-body passenger aircraft, including six brand new 777-300ERs, with their capacious lower holds.
2012 was a very good year for Saudia Cargo, and although full-year numbers are not yet available, traffic was up 19% year over year through November to 471,000 tonnes, with Saudia Cargo chief Fahad Hammad predicting that cargo revenue for the entire year will be up 20% over 2011. This increase, according to Mr. Hammad, is largely due to import growth from Europe, UAE, and East Africa and the aggressive pursuit of charter and belly business.
For now, Saudia’s new membership in Skyteam is relevant only to passenger operations. The carrier is not yet part of the related Skyteam Cargo alliance (which includes Air France/KLM Cargo, Alitalia Cargo, China Southern Cargo, Korean Air Cargo, Delta Air Logistics, Aeroflot Cargo, and others) – the largest such cooperative effort in the cargo world.