- Saudia seeks to build and run a network of air taxi service using the Lilium air taxi fleet within the Kingdom.
- The plan includes "new electric point-to-point links as well as seamless feeder connections to Saudia's hubs."
- The airline has unveiled plans to buy the first 100 Lilium Jets in order to introduce the cutting-edge electric VTOL aircraft.
Saudi Arabian (Saudia), the Kingdom’s national airline, has unveiled plans to purchase 100 all-electric jets made by Lilium N.V., based in Germany. The Lilium team aims to get the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to certify the eVTOL aircraft.
The Saudi flag-carrier announced the investment in the next-generation air taxis using electric vertical take-off and landing (e-VTOL) technology at the recently-concluded Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh.
The move, reported by Avionics International, would make Saudia the first in the MENA region to push for Lilium's sustainable air mobility architecture, which is currently undergoing certification.
While the announcement did not disclose the amount involved, based on previous agreements signed by Lilium, the the deal has an estimated value of about $450 million.
Lilium aims to build 400 jets a year.
Ducted jet engine technology
Lilium seeks to develop a new aviation platform and make accessible a mode of high-speed, regional transportation using electric “ducted jet engines” — the core element of its technology — and make it more economically viable.
Lilium, based in Germany, is developing a radically different way of moving people and goods with its VTOL electric jet. The Lilium team aims to get the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to certify its next-generation aircraft.
The two entities signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the proposed development and operation by Saudia of an eVTOL network across Saudi Arabia. With the partnership, Saudia will become the first airline in the MENA region to purchase 100 Lilium Jets alongside yearly support services.
The partnership iis a significant boost for Lilium’s technology.
7-seater air taxi
The company has been conducting test flights of its new electric jet design. Currently, Lilium is working on a test flight campaign for its 7-seater jet design as part of certification process with European and US regulators.
Given its potential to make faster short-haul travel possible with zero operating emissions and its adaptable cabin architecture, the Lilium Jet is anticipated to spur early uptake of the eVTOL aircraft needed for scale.
The Saudia-Lilium agreement is contingent on the parties concluding a feasibility assessment, reaching a commercial understanding, signing formal contracts, and meeting a number of requirements.
In a statement, Captain Ibrahim S. Koshy, Chief Executive Officer of Saudia, told aviation industry media: “Saudia intends to meet a growing demand for regional air mobility and offer our valued guests a superior on-board experience. The potential for such an airborne transit network is limitless.”
For his part, Alexander Asseily, Vice Chairman of Lilium, told Travel News Asia: “We are thrilled to work with innovative partners for whom sustainability is a priority. This partnership with Saudia, our first in the Middle East, is an exciting development for Lilium. We look forward to working with Saudia to deploy an eVTOL network across Saudi Arabia.”