RIYADH AIR: Official announcement of new Saudi Airline to rival Emirates
Earlier this year, we reported on an article stating that ex-Etihad Airlines chief, Tony Douglas, had departed this new venture, until today known as RIA, after only 2 months in the position. The article appearing in Arabian Business is now no longer available. Since Tony Douglas has been announced as the new CEO of the renamed Riyadh Air, they must have made up, or the original story lacked a factual basis.
Yesterday’s announcement by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced Saudi Arabia will launch a new state-run airline called Riyadh Air, along with its existing airline Saudia Airlines.
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100 Destinations by 2030
They have big plans, including aiming for 100 destinations to be achieved in the next 7 years, by 2030. And that’s before they have even ordered their first aircraft, although with the help of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund sovereign-wealth arm, they apparently have US $35 billion to spend on a massive aircraft order or orders.
Boeing or Airbus or both?
Reports differ, but the Wall Street Journal is saying they intend to go with Boeing for all that money, probably concentrating on a long-haul fleet made up of 787 Dreamliners, and the long-delayed 777X series. An order like this would sure help in Boeing’s recovery, after numerous issues including the regulatory and software problems with the 737 MAX after two planes fell out of the sky killing more than 300 crew and passengers, the production issues with the 787 and the constantly delayed 777X series.
The new airline is more likely to hedge its bets and spread the order between Airbus and Boeing, so add A330s and A350s to that list of aircraft types that could be ordered.
Why a new airline?
The Saudi economy depends on oil – a carbon-spewing product threatening the world through climate change. The Saudis have known for a long time that they needed to transition from oil for the long time health of their economy. They have always known that the oil will eventually run out. Climate change has just made things more acute, as it now threatens the demand for their product.
Qatar, Emirates and Etihad have proven the advantages of the Arabian peninsula as a transport hub, but the Saudis are a little late to the party. Still, better late than never. The advantage for us customers is that rich Arabian users of these airlines like their creature comforts, not to mention a lack of aversion to a bit of bling. So expect something outstanding to set them apart from their illustrious competitors. Think, the quality of these Arabic competitors plus others like Turkish and Singapore who also act as hubs. Oman Air based in Muscat is perhaps another example of an airline that is challenging the orthodoxy of the middle east airline industry through its cabins, service and network.
The Riyadh-based airlline is a very ambitious project to open Saudi Arabia and all but initiate a tourism industry with the aim of attracting 100 million visitors by 2030. Them’s big aims! Remember, the country was basically closed to non-Islamic tourists until 2019. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has a split personality reputation – on the one hand apparently responsible for the murder of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, and on the other hand, having a progressive and ambitious change agenda led by a tourist investment strategy including airports and resorts and logistics centres.
The aim is to create more than 200,000 direct and indirect robs adding UA $ 20 billion to Saudi’s growth.
This new airline will put its base; Riyadh on the tourist map. Now they just need to drag some of their human and other rights attitudes into the 21st century to successfully attract tourism as other states have done.
I think this is an exciting development.
If we are lucky, we might see a worthy competitor adding to the diversity of airline options available. Another new global airline might affect service, quality and price, so let’s look forward to that. Tony Douglas gave us The Residence, and the publicity campaign starring Nicole Kidman. Let’s hope that’s the path he goes down, and not the bad investments in airlines he made – from Virgin Australia (pre-COVID version) and Alitalia, both now defunct.
Still, I can’t get too far away from the horrendous reputation of the MBS and the Kingdom
What did you say?