The aviation history of the Kingdom dates back to 1940’s when U.S. President Roosevelt gifted King Abdul Aziz a Douglas DC-3 aircraft, following their historic meeting in Suez Canal on February.
In 1945, DC-3 was used on routes between Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam for both passengers and cargo, following which two more DC-3’s were purchased within months. In the same year, Saudi Arabian Airlines was set up as an operating agency of the Ministry of Defense. The airline’s first airport and operating base was located in Kandara, close to what is today Jeddah’s downtown area. Haj pilgrims were flown from Palestine and other countries.
Saudi Arabian Airlines then requested permission for charter flights to London. In 1947, two more Dakotas were purchased and scheduled services started operating both within the Kingdom and to regional destinations such as Cairo and Damascus. On March 14th, the first scheduled domestic service took place.
In 1952, five Douglas DC-4s equipped with four engines were purchased, permitting operations to Amman, Karachi and other Middle Eastern destinations. The following year witnessed inauguration of services between Dhahran and Beirut, and to Port Sudan, Asmara, Istanbul and Kuwait.
By its tenth anniversary in 1955, the airline had brought all outlying communities of the Kingdom to within a few hours’ journey of each other, both to and from Jeddah and Riyadh, which is the local transport hub for annual pilgrimage. In the same year, first maintenance shops were built in Jeddah. Early in 1959, a daily air shuttle service between Jeddah and Riyadh was inaugurated, using pressurized Convair-Liners.
In 1963, a royal decree was issued by King Faisal, making Saudi Arabian Airlines a legally independent, commercial entity with its own board of directors, stipulating a pattern for future growth and expansion of the airline business.