Saudi Arabian Airlines operating as Saudia is the flag carrier airline of Saudi Arabia, based in Jeddah. The airline reverted to its abbreviated English brand name Saudia (used from 1972 to 1996) from Saudi Arabian Airlines (historic name in use until 1971 and reintroduced in 1997) on 29 May 2012; the name was changed to celebrate the company's entry into the SkyTeam airline alliance on that day, and it was a part of a larger rebranding initiative. It operates domestic and international scheduled flights to over 90 destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Domestic and international charter flights are operated, mostly during Ramadan and the Hajj season.
The airline's main operational base is at Jeddah-King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED). Other major hubs are Riyadh-King Khalid International Airport (RUH), and Dammam-King Fahd International Airport (DMM). The new Dammam airport was opened for commercial use on 28 November 1999. Dhahran International Airport in use until then, has reverted to being used as a military base. Saudia is a member of the Arab Air Carriers Organization. The airline joined the SkyTeam airline alliance on 29 May 2012. The airline used to be the largest carrier in the region, but because of the growth of other airports and airlines has become the third largest, behind Emirates and Qatar Airways.
When U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt presented a Douglas DC-3 as a gift to King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud in 1945, the event marked the Kingdom's gradual development of civil aviation. The nation's flag carrier, Saudia, was founded as Saudi Arabian Airlines in September 1946 as a fully owned government agency under the control of the Ministry of Defense, with TWA running the airline under a management contract. From the beginning, Jeddah-Kandara airport—very near the town center-served as the flag carrier's main base. Among the airline's early operations was a special flight from Lydda in Palestine (today Lod in Israel, site of Ben-Gurion International Airport), a British Mandate at that time, to carry Hajj pilgrims to Jeddah. The airline used five DC-3 aircraft to launch scheduled operations on the Jeddah-Riyadh-Hofuf-Dhahran route in March 1947, followed by its first international service between Jeddah and Cairo also in that same month. Service to Damascus and Beirut followed in early 1948. The following year saw the first of five Bristol 170s being received. These aircraft offered the airline the flexibility of carrying both passengers and cargo.