Skip to main content

Saudi’s new Riyadh Air set to compete with Emirates, Qatar Airways  

The airline is expected to better connect travelers to Saudi Arabia’s cultural and natural attractions, create more than 200,000 jobs and add $20 billion to non-oil gross domestic product. 
Riyadh Air

DUBAI — Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced its new national carrier Riyadh Air on Sunday, which is expected to serve as a hub between Africa, Europe and Asia, and connect to over 100 global destinations by 2030.

The PIF, the full owners of the airline, stated that the goal of this airline over the years is to improve travelers' connection to Saudi Arabia’s cultural and natural attractions, create more than 200,000 jobs and add $20 billion to non-oil gross domestic product.

At the helm of Riyadh Air will be former Etihad-CEO Tony Douglas, who started with the Abu Dhabi state carrier in 2018 but left in October of last year to pursue an unspecified opportunity, Reuters reported at the time.

Riyadh Air is already predicted to be a direct competitor to the world’s highest-ranking airlines, including Dubia’s Emirates, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Singapore Airlines, the Australian-owned premium traveler platform Executive Traveller reported.

The publication said to prepare for an upcoming “battle of the best first class and business class” with opulent lounges and more for high-end travels.

The airline is close to locking a deal for a fleet of Boeing commercial jets valued at $35 billion, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal, which indicates the announcement could be made anytime this week.

It will operate from the country’s capital and adopt sustainability measures, which are not yet defined, and implement “cutting-edge technology.”

Riyadh Air is set to be the kingdom’s second national carrier after Jeddah-based Saudia, its current flagship airline under Saudi Arabian Airlines.

There are also the budget airlines Flynas and Flyadeal and Riyadh-based private charter airline Sky Prime Aviation.

The sovereign wealth fund subsidiary is meant to serve as “a catalyst for the Saudi National Transport and Logistics Strategy and the National Tourism Strategy by increasing air transport options, raising cargo capacity and, in turn, growing international passenger traffic,” according to the PIF’s announcement on Sunday.

In November 2022, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced plans to upgrade the existing Riyadh airport into a much larger hub with six parallel runways to accommodate up to 120 million travelers by 2030, according to the government Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund said that the airport would stretch over 57 square kilometers (22 square miles) to become the operation base for the new national airline known as RIA until now.

"The airport project is in line with Saudi Arabia's vision to transform Riyadh to be among the top 10 city economies in the world and to support the growth of Riyadh's population to 15-20 million people by 2030," reported the Saudi Press Agency at the time.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Gulf Briefing Gulf Briefing

Gulf Briefing

Top GCC stories in your inbox each week

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial