Riyadh Air estimated launch and insights
The Financial Times has disclosed key insights into the strategy of Saudi Arabia’s newly introduced airline, Riyadh Air, which has been a subject of speculation since its presentation in March 2023.
CEO revealed insights
Citing Riyadh Air’s CEO, Tony Douglas, the FT states that the forthcoming carrier, anticipated to commence operations in 2025, will primarily concentrate on air traffic to and from Saudi Arabia. Instead of engaging in direct competition with major players like Qatar Airways and Emirates, Riyadh Air aims to carve a distinct niche. These two neighboring competitors have solidified their positions by transforming Doha (DOH) and Dubai (DXB) airports into prominent global connecting hubs. It’s worth noting that Tony Douglas previously served as the CEO of Etihad, an airline that also established a global hub in Abu Dhabi (AUH), albeit on a smaller scale compared to the aforementioned Gulf airlines.
This focus on Saudi Arabia aligns with the nation’s ambitions to emerge as a significant international tourist destination in its own right. The Middle Eastern kingdom is set to invest more than US$ 100 billion in a series of tourism development projects as part of its “2030 Vision” economic development strategy. Saudi Arabia aims to attract 100 million annual visitors by the end of the decade, fueling various initiatives encompassing airport construction, expansion, seaside resort development, and the creation of futuristic new cities.
Additionally, Douglas confirmed Riyadh Air’s intention to establish a fleet of narrow-body aircraft capable of serving up to 100 destinations by 2030, characterizing it as an “extremely ambitious” growth plan. The airline is reportedly seeking to acquire a minimum of 150 narrow-body aircraft, with the Boeing 737 MAX emerging as the top contender, supplementing the 39 Boeing 787s (with 33 options) it ordered earlier in 2023. However, these numbers constitute just a fraction of the projected fleet, which, according to some reports, could eventually expand to encompass 300 to 400 aircraft.
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