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.
Mr. Tony Douglas has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of #RiyadhAir. He has more than 40 years of experience in the aviation, transportation and logistics industries. pic.twitter.com/acqoeswIG5— Public Investment Fund (@PIF_en) March 12, 2023
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.