SPONSORS: SAUDIA AIRLINES
Name: Saudia Airlines
Saudi Arabian Airlines started out in 1945 when US President Franklin D Roosevelt gave King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia a twin-engined Dakota DC3. The king decided to buy two more aircraft and flights were started between Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran. The following year the company was established as a subsidiary of the country's Ministry of Defence. The company expanded internationally in the late 1940s and 1950s and expanded the fleet of planes and in 1962 became the first airline in the Middle East to operate commercial jets. In 1963 Saudi Arabian Airlines became an independent company, owned by the Saudi royal family and in 1967 became a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and started flying to European destinations, notably Geneva, Frankfurt and London. The company decided to change its name in to Saudia in 1972 by which time it was flying to 49 destinations and by 1977 the company was able to buy its first Boeing 747s. Looking for a higher profile image the company concluded a deal in 1978 with the Williams F1 team and with the sponsorship the team was able to design the hugely-successful FW07 chassis which took Alan Jones to the World Championship in 1980. The Saudia sponsorship was to continue until 1985 although increasingly the money came from other Arab companies which were introduced to Williams by Saudia. These included TAG and Albilad. The Saudia sponsorship was a big success and expansion continued around the world and the opening of the King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh in 1983. In 2000 the company began to look at studies to privatise the airline.