Saudi Arabia Launches New Airline ‘Riyadh Air’; Plans to Fly 100+ Destinations By 2030

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Saudi Arabia announced the formation of its new national airline, “Riyadh Air,” on Sunday as part of its plan to transform the capital city into a global aviation hub capable of competing with regional leaders such as Dubai and Doha.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, Riyadh Air plans to launch flights to more than 100 destinations around the world by 2030.

Riyadh as a Global Aviation Hub

Last November, Saudi Arabia announced its plan to construct a new airport in the capital Riyadh that will cover 57 square kilometres, making it one of the largest airports in the world. The airport is expected to accommodate 120 million travellers annually by 2030 and 185 million travellers by 2050.

This airport’s capacity is more than three times that of the existing Riyadh airport, which can accommodate around 35 million travellers.

The establishment of Riyadh Air is the latest project in a “huge package of projects” that Saudi Arabia hopes will strengthen its position as a global logistics centre and an international aviation hub.

Tony Douglas, the former CEO of Etihad Airways, has been appointed CEO of Riyadh Air. The airline will operate a fleet of advanced aircraft, although the size of the fleet and its source has not been announced yet.

Saudi Arabia’s Ambitious Aviation Goals

The new airline is part of a larger plan that includes the construction of a new airport in Riyadh, covering an area of 57 square kilometres and expected to accommodate 120 million passengers per year by 2030 and 185 million passengers by 2050. The existing Riyadh airport can accommodate approximately 35 million passengers.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund that will own the airline, is close to finalising a deal with Boeing for a $35 billion aircraft order.

The busiest international airport in Saudi Arabia is currently located in Jeddah, where the country’s flag carrier, Saudia, is based. According to Khalil Lamrabet, former CEO of the Saudi Air Connectivity Program, officials have been attempting to position Riyadh as a rival to Dubai, and in order to do so, the city needs to develop a dedicated hub.

While industry analysts have questioned whether Saudi Arabia’s goals are achievable, officials see a significant advantage for national carriers over rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways due to Saudi Arabia’s sizable domestic and outbound traffic.

Final Thoughts

Finally, the establishment of Riyadh Air is part of Saudi Arabia’s larger plan to establish Riyadh as a global aviation hub and a competitor to business hub Dubai. The airline plans to fly to more than 100 destinations around the world by 2030, and the country hopes to triple annual traffic to 330 million passengers by the end of the decade.

Only time will tell if Saudi Arabia’s ambitious aviation goals will be realised, establishing Riyadh as a global aviation hub capable of competing with regional leaders such as Dubai and Doha.

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