Delta & Riyadh Air sign up strategic partnership agreement; Delta to fly to Riyadh

Riyadh Air is a new airline conceptualised to be based in Riyadh, KSA. It is part of the massive push for tourism that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is making as part of its Vision 2030 plan. Since then, the airline has ordered aircraft, revealed its livery, and participated in airshows, but the first commercial flight for the carrier is planned for summer 2025, which is about a year from now.

In the meantime, the carrier is signing agreements with other airlines for cooperation. Riyadh Air has already signed agreements with Singapore Airlines, EgyptAir, Air China, and China Eastern. While the airline is not open to joining an alliance at the moment, it also wants to have a partner in the Indian subcontinent and in Europe.

Delta and Riyadh Air unveil plans to cooperate.

Delta and Riyadh Air have signed a Strategic Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding with the goal of introducing a broad range of benefits for customers travelling between North America, Saudi Arabia, and ‘destinations beyond’.

While Riyadh Air has yet to take off, the exact details remain to be fleshed out. But both the companies state that they envision a long-term relationship, subject to regulatory approvals, that includes interline and codeshare connectivity, as well as a deeper partnership encompassing loyalty, customer experience, digital transformation and broader aviation services such as maintenance, repair and overhaul services, ground handling and training.

two airplanes flying in the sky

In the future, the airlines intend to explore an immunised joint venture to further expand the partnership and allow collaboration on network planning and growth in the region.

This MoU also states that Delta plans to launch flights between the US and Riyadh; however, the rest of the details remain sketchy. Interestingly, Delta will serve as Riyadh Air’s exclusive partner in North America, which means Canada and Mexico are all a part of their territory. At the same time, Riyadh Air will be Delta’s exclusive partner in Riyadh (and beyond, though what that means has not been clarified).

a group of people shaking hands

Here is what Delta CEO Ed Bastian had to say about the new partnership,

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 traveling to and from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Most importantly, Riyadh Air shares Delta’s commitment to providing an elevated customer experience, which is why we’re looking forward to building and expanding this partnership in the months and years ahead. We appreciate the opportunity to work with the Riyadh Air team and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia as they transform the transportation economy in the Kingdom.

It’s fitting that Riyadh Air will begin its journey the same year that Delta launches our second century of flight. We’ll have many opportunities to learn from each other and become better airlines for our mutual customers, our employees, our investors and our communities as we fly forward together.

Here is how Riyadh Air CEO Tony Douglas described this partnership:

We look forward to enjoying a very warm and productive relationship with Delta Air Lines, one of the largest and most successful airlines in the world. Riyadh Air and Delta Air Lines share common goals and pursue the highest standards in many areas including guest experience, loyalty, and sustainability, built upon great networks and strong connectivity.

This is a surprise (or not).

Middle Eastern and North American carriers have been cosying up after a war of words for most of the last decade. American Airlines is now in a partnership with Qatar Airways, Emirates has a partnership with United, and that left Delta to strike a partnership. Ironically enough, Saudia, a part of SkyTeam, is already an airline that has flown for many years and exists in Saudi Arabia, but Delta and Riyadh Air have partnered instead.  That means this agreement will be many years before it sees fruition in any shape or form.


Delta and Riyadh Air have announced plans for a strategic alliance. The airlines plan to partner across a variety of areas, such as network planning, loyalty, passenger experience, and more. Delta also intends to fly to Riyadh, and both the airlines plan to consider a joint venture in the future. Interesting to note that Delta has passed up on other Middle Eastern carriers such as Saudia and Etihad to form a cooperation with a carrier who still has no operations.

What do you think of this Delta & Riyadh Air partnership announcement?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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