SC leaders hope Boeing Dreamliner deal will improve relations with Saudi Arabia

Announced in March, the purchase of the Dreamliners by Riyadh Air and SAUDIA Airlines is the fifth-largest commercial order in Boeing’s history.
Published: May. 5, 2023 at 4:25 PM EDT|Updated: May. 6, 2023 at 9:04 AM EDT
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - State officials addressed the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia during Boeing’s event on Friday, saying the purchase will create a new opportunity for communication between the countries.

Boeing South Carolina hosted state officials and officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at a celebration of the purchase of 121 of the manufacturer’s Dreamliner planes.

Announced in March, the purchase of the Dreamliners by Riyadh Air and SAUDIA Airlines is the fifth-largest commercial order in Boeing’s history.

“From a South Carolina perspective, this is maybe the most consequential purchase for our state, and maybe in the history of Boeing, because it allowed us to engage a problematic ally in a new way,” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said.

RELATED: McMaster, Graham, Saudi Arabian officials join Boeing for celebration

But the purchase comes amid a controversial history between the two countries.

“It’s been a strong relationship in so many ways; I don’t see that as something that’s abnormal,” SAUDIA Airlines CEO, Captain Ibrahim Koshy, says. “People do agree and disagree, but it’s the mutual respect and historical aspect that’s going to continue going forward from here.”

Saudi Arabia has been accused of significant human rights violations including unlawful killings, serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media and the lack of women’s rights according to the U.S. Department of State 2022 report.

“I think that firsthand experience dispels myths and misconceptions,” Koshy adds.

In April, Graham met with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“We have common enemies and we’ve had major differences,” Graham says. “I told the Crown Princess, there is no going back; if you don’t open your country up to more opportunities for women, you will not get these planes up. But, if you keep going down the path you’re going, and then all the sky’s the limit.”

Graham said the meeting was to strengthen the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

“Yeah, they’ve had very serious problems in the past, but going forward, the country is changing,” Graham adds. “I just got back from a trip, and Women can drive; that’s a major step forward. Women can go out to a restaurant without a male escort. Saudi Arabia is making a decision to change; they’re opening their country up to their own people.”

In efforts to instill a new perspective of the county, Saudia Arabia is working on promoting tourism with what they call Vision 2030; a goal of serving 330 million passengers and 100 million visitors by 2030.

Saudi Arabian Royal Highness Princess, Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, says the deal with Boeing creates jobs back home in Saudi Arabia.

“You are helping my nation open up and invite others in. You are helping us introduce my country to the world, and for that I will, and my nation will be eternally grateful,” Al Saud says.

The first of the Boeing planes will be delivered in 2025 with hopes of becoming a global aviation hub.