Boeing International Chairman Sir Michael Arthur said the aviation industry was recovering and doing well, underscoring its vitality for the global economy.
Commenting on the Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum held in Riyadh, Arthur told Asharq Al-Awsat that he was very impressed with the scope of the conference, which he said comes at a very important moment in the history of the world economy.
“There are a lot of changes happening right now. But I think Saudi Arabia has an active role to play in bringing people together, and we look forward to the next few years,” he said.
Regarding the challenges facing the aviation industry, he said: “We have had three terrible years in this industry, due to the coronavirus pandemic, when the world stopped flying, but now the industry is recovering. very quickly.”
Highlighting the strong demand for aircraft, Arthur said the Middle East region ranks above the global average in the number of passengers traveling by air.
“We are almost back to pre-coronavirus levels now, in number of flights and in some countries… There is currently more regional demand and by next year we will be back to full pre-COVID-19 levels or even above them by 10 to 24 percent,” he noted.
He stressed that the industry has recovered and is in good shape.
Arthur continued: “Long term after 20 years, we see huge growth in aviation where 41,000 aircraft will be purchased, which means almost doubling the current fleet.”
The Boeing International president noted that supply chain constraints have hampered the return of full production capacity in the aviation industry.
“But the solution will come, it’s only a matter of time, we’ll figure it out,” he said.
Arthur highlighted the ambition of the Saudi government to develop aerospace under the Global Space Initiative.
“We would like to be part of it,” he said. “We are already very involved in the Kingdom. We have 2,000 people working here at home and the number is growing over time, some in defensive warplanes and some in commercial planes. So we have a lot of ideas for the future…”
In response to a question about the company’s plans to manufacture parts for its aircraft in Saudi Arabia, he said: “We already provide significant defense support in the Kingdom. I’m glad you asked that question, and we’ve been here for many years, and this work is progressing at an ever-increasing pace.
“We are supporting the Saudi Air Force in their rotary engine aircraft and in their fixed wing aircraft to ensure they are safe, efficient and able to fly.”
He mentioned a global partnership with the Saudi armed forces, as well as a memorandum with the Saudi government for the production of aluminum used in the aeronautical industry.
Importance of air transport
Turning to the importance of the Middle East region in the air transport sector, Arthur said that Saudi Arabia and the region enjoy a very good position, noting that the region connects East and West. .
“So I think there’s a lot of growth potential here, in terms of passengers,” he said.
He added that the region was home to two of the seven largest shipping companies in the world.
“So that’s just one example of the scale of that growth. We expect that to grow even more over the next few years. So you have a major geographic role, and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are investing in aviation infrastructure, so I think the future looks very positive for the region in this area,” Arthur remarked.
He pointed out that aircraft demands are increasing, adding that the market is in good shape.
“As I said earlier, the long-distance travel market is coming back now and it will be stronger next year…So they expect the growth to be very healthy,” he said. he declares.
Asked about Boeing’s chances of joining the new company that Saudi Arabia intends to launch, he said: “The ambition of the Kingdom and the Public Investment Fund is very exciting… We are fans of their plans, and we very much hope that they will choose Boeing planes; but it is an option that remains for Saudi Arabia… Of course, we will work closely with them to give them the best of ourselves.
He reiterated that the defense partnership was an important part of Boeing’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.
“We have a great growing relationship on the business side. We now have a partnership in maintenance, as well as in the defense platform. We have 240 Boeing aircraft in the Saudi fleet… We are very proud to support the Saudi government in the work it needs,” he concluded.