Delta Air Lines has a formed a new strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh Air, with the major US airline and yet-to-launch carrier building toward an eventual joint venture. 

The airlines signed a Strategic Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding at Delta’s Atlanta headquarters on 9 July, marking the beginning of a relationship the carriers say will see start-up carrier Riyadh Air become “Delta’s exclusive partner in Riyadh and beyond”. 


Source: viper zero/Shutterstock

Delta has long-term plans to build a mutually beneficial relationship with Saudi Arabian start-up carrier Riyadh Air 

Still subject to regulatory approvals, the deal aims to grow Delta and Riyadh’s respective international networks over a long period. It is to include interline and codeshare agreements in addition to a “deeper partnership” that will cover loyalty programmes and customer experience, and, the carriers hope, an eventual antitrust-immune joint venture. 

The partnership is also to encompass personnel training and maintenance, repair and overhaul and ground handling services. 

When each phase of the partnership will roll out is unclear. 

Riyadh Air

Source: Riyadh Air

Launched by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund in March 2023, Riyadh Air has a commitment for up to 72 Boeing 787s 

“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 travelling to and from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” says Ed Bastian, Delta chief executive.

“Most importantly, Riyadh Air shares Delta’s commitment to providing an elevated customer experience,” he adds, ”which is why we’re looking forward to building and expanding this partnership in the months and years ahead.”

Eventually, Delta plans to fly nonstop between the USA and King Khalid International airport in Riyadh, and Riyadh Air plans connect to Delta’s expansive North American network. 

Riyadh Air plans to launch operations in 2025 and is “committed to building a premier carrier for customers travelling to and from the Middle East”.