History of SAUDIA: Phenomenal growth for Middle East airline in the 60s

The 1960s was a cultural decade of inter-related trends, both cultural and political, around the globe. More to the point, it was a time of counter culture and social revolution.

For SAUDIA, Saudi Arabian Airlines, the 60s represented a decade of exceptional growth and prosperity. In 1961, SAUDIA established routes to Sharjah and Tehran. In the same year, the airline purchased 2 Boeing 720-Bs and introduced in-Kingdom training programs. The following year in March of ’62, SAUDIA introduced B720-Bs into service, becoming the first airline in the Middle East to operate commercial jet airliners.

Saudi Arabian Airlines was established as a corporation in 1963, and by Royal Decree No. 45 dated February 19, 1963, signed by King Faisal, the airline became an autonomous entity, run by a Board of Directors and chaired by the Minister of Defense and Aviation.
In 1964, the airline acquired 2 DC-6s, with a third one joining the airline’s fleet in 1965. Routes to Khartoum and Dubai were also started, and the airline joined the Arab Air Carriers Organization (AACO) as a founding member on August 25. Service started to Bombay began that year.

In February of 1967, routes were opened to Tunis, Rabat, and Tripoli (all via Beirut), and on April 17, 1967, Saudi Arabian Airlines joined the International Air Transport Association (IATA). It took delivery of 3 Douglas DC-9 twin-jets, and in May opened European connections to Geneva, Frankfurt, and London via Beirut.

As the decade started to wind down, the airline continued to grow, with 2 Boeing 707-368s joining the fleet in 1968 and nonstop, twice weekly flights to London inaugurated. In 1969, Algiers joined the network of destinations.

This astounding growth was truly just the beginning of even bigger things to come for SAUDIA.