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RIYADH AIR: No First Class, better Business Class & Premium Economy will be Business minus.

RIYADH AIR: No First Class, better Business Class & Premium Economy will be Business minus.

In an exclusive interview with Tony Douglas, CEO of the new Saudi Arabian airline Riyadh Air, David Flynn of ET gave us some insights into the cabins and services inside the aircraft, which will debut in 2025.

They are admittedly fuzzy ahead of a later announcement, but they do give us something.

a plane flying in the sky
All Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet for Riyadh Air. [Riyadh]

Riyadh Air Cabins

Here is what Douglas, previously head of Etihad, gives away:

  • First Class will not be installed. It doesn’t make money. The Business Class cabin will be so good, they don’t need it anyway.
  • The Business Class Suites will be well appointed, have doors, and be so good, they will equal some First Class products. It will be a ‘Maybach’ over an S-Class Mercedes.
  • The emphasis will be on the textures and finishing of the Business Class Suites to elevate them above the level of other airlines. Cues will be taken from the uniform design.
  • Premium Economy will be ‘business class minus’, not ‘economy plus’—but don’t expect lie-flat beds. However, it will be better than some airlines’ Business Class.
a woman wearing a blue dress and sunglasses
Riyadh Air Uniforms – modernist vibe [Riyadh Air]

2PAXfly Takeout

So the information is a bit conceptual rather than factual. This echoes Douglas’ previous approach at Etihad, which gave us ‘The Residence. It also perpetuates the constant race to provide more and better facilities in premium cabins. Reflecting the trend to eliminate First Class on many services.

Regrettably, the days when First was an aspirational loss leader are gone. We, devotees, love the possibility of a complementary or points-based upgrade from Business to First. But apparently, there is no money for an airline in that.

The approach is also slightly surprising for a Middle East-based airline, where the bling of Emirates and the exclusivity of Etihad seem au courant.

The Riyadh Air Business Class cabins are going to have to be (pardon the pun) chic enough for a sheikh.

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