Saudi Arabia new national airline Riyadh Air aims to rival Gulf

Riyadh Air
Riyadh Air

Saudi Arabia has announced the creation of a new national airline, named Riyadh Air.

As part of its ambitious plan to establish the capital as a major aviation hub to rival regional leaders like Dubai and Doha.

The airline, wholly-owned by the Public Investment Fund, will be chaired by PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan, and former Etihad Aviation Group boss Tony Douglas has been appointed as CEO.

According to the official Saudi Press Agency, Riyadh Air aims to serve over 100 destinations worldwide by 2030.

Tony Douglas CEO of Riyadh Air
Tony Douglas CEO of Riyadh Air

The airline’s establishment is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” reform agenda. Which aims to more than triple annual air traffic to 330 million passengers by the end of the decade.

Saudi Arabia also plans to move up to five million tonnes of cargo each year.

To support these goals, the country announced plans for a new airport in Riyadh last November, which will span 57 square kilometres and accommodate 120 million passengers per year by 2030 and 185 million by 2050.

Currently, the capacity of the existing Riyadh airport is around 35 million passengers.

The creation of Riyadh Air is expected to add USD 20 billion to non-oil GDP growth and create more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The PIF is reportedly in talks with Boeing and Airbus regarding orders for approximately 80 aircraft, marking the first purchases for the new national airline.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the fund is nearing a deal with Boeing for jets worth USD 35 billion.

The establishment of Riyadh Air could present a challenge for existing major airlines in the region, such as Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways.

Riyadh Air’s senior management team will include both Saudi and international expertise, indicating the airline’s intention to compete on a global scale.

Investors and aviation enthusiasts alike will be watching closely to see how this new airline fares in a highly competitive market

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