Saudi Arabia unveiled a new national airline of the Gulf, Riyadh Air, to make Riyadh a world-class aviation hub to compete against regional players like Dubai and Doha. The former head of Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, Tony Douglas, will become the CEO of the new airline. The new carrier aims to serve 100 global destinations and triple Riyadh’s yearly traffic to 330 million travellers and five million tonnes of cargo by 2030.
It is a part of the “Vision 2030” reform agenda of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudi government announced in November its plans for a new airport in the capital city, Riyadh. The new airport will span 57 square kilometres (22 square miles) with an annual capacity of 120 million travellers by 2030 and 185 million passengers by 2050 against the existing yearly capacity of 35 million. The sovereign wealth fund, Public Investment Fund, will own the carrier and is presently in talks with Boeing for an aircraft order worth $35 billion.
Industry experts see the regional market as already saturated. But the government aims to tap the country’s domestic market with a population of 35 million, offering considerable outbound and inbound traffic. Saudi officials believe this to be a significant advantage for national airlines over competitors like Emirates and Qatar Airways. In addition, they feel that with this new airline launch, their dependence on transfer flights will decline compared to other regional hubs.