Saudi Arabia’s national carrier SAUDIA has made a deal with German manufacturer Lilium for 100 electric vertical take-off and landing jets (eVTOLs), also known as flying taxis.
SAUDIA and Lilium announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the delivery of the eVTOLs, which will make them the first airline in the Middle East and North Africa region to receive the jets.
The eVTOLs will serve multiple purposes in the airline’s fleet, with SAUDIA planning to use them primarily for urban connectivity. The eVTOLs will be used for point-to-point flights, meaning a passenger will be able to walk off a SAUDIA flight and onto an eVTOL jet which will take them to a helipad nearest to their desired location.
One of the biggest upsides of the eVTOLs are their significantly lower emissions than alternative transport options. This allows airlines like SAUDIA to diversify their business and better improve their carbon footprint.
SAUDIA chief executive Ibrahim S. Koshy released a statement on the deal with Lilium.
“SAUDIA, building on its commitment to be an industry-leading airline committed to sustainability, consider 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.”
The concept of eVTOLs has been around for over a decade but translating the idea into a commercial reality has proved difficult. The last two years, however, have seen significant progress made in the development of eVTOLs, with Lilium unveiling its Phoenix2 prototype earlier this year, being the first eVTOL to transition from hover-based to wing-based flight.
“This partnership with SAUDIA, our first in the Middle East, is an exciting development,” explained Alexander Asseily, Lilium’s Vice Chairman.
“We look forward to working with SAUDIA to deploy an eVTOL network across Saudi Arabia,” Asseily said.
Saudi Arabia has recently announced several plans for new airlines, airports, and an expanded set of routes to better connect the country, and this latest deal between SAUDIA and Lilium is hoped to bring Saudi Arabia one step closer to becoming a thriving tourist and business destination.
Saudi Arabia also established the Air Connectivity Program last year to help coordinate national aviation initiatives, which has assisted in creating 23 new routes from the country over recent months.
At present, no clear timeline has been established for the manufacturing and delivery of eVTOL jets to SAUDIA.