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Saudi Arabia’s race for Gulf economic leadership takes to the sky

The kingdom diversification plan goes head-to-head with flag carriers Emirates and Qatar Airways, as intra-Gulf economic rivalries heat up on all fronts.
This picture taken on July 8, 2020, shows an aerial view of Emirates aircraft parked on the tarmac at Dubai International Airport.

Saudi Arabia plans to launch a second national airline “as soon as possible” to catapult the country into the fifth rank globally in air transit traffic, increase air connectivity to reach more than 250 destinations, and go head-to-head with flag carriers Emirates and Qatar Airways.

“It’s good for us. More competition means more job availability and better salaries,” said a pilot employed by a competing airline. But industry analysts remain skeptical. “It is simply too late; they have missed the boat," said Alex Macheras, a UK-based aviation analyst. He told Al-Monitor, “There is no need for another airline to replicate what Qatar Airways and Emirates have already achieved in terms of being the global super-connector airlines.”

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