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Saudi’s national airline to connect Riyadh to 100 cities by 2030

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Reuters/Murat Cetinmuhurdar
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has announced the launch of Riyadh Air

Saudi Arabia is to launch a new national airline – Riyadh Air – which it is expected to create more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs and add $20 billion to the kingdom’s non-oil economy.

The announcement was made late on Sunday by Crown Prince, prime minister Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz and the chairman of the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

The new airline, headquartered in the Saudi capital and wholly owned by PIF, will be chaired by Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of PIF. Tony Douglas, the former CEO of Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, has been appointed chief executive officer. 

Linus Benjamin Bauer, founder and managing director of Bauer Aviation Advisory, said the launch of Riyadh Air will leverage Saudi Arabia’s strategic geographic location between Asia, Africa and Europe “enabling the capital Riyadh to become another gateway to the world and a global destination for transportation, trade and tourism”.

Riyadh Air will connect the capital city to over 100 destinations by 2030, PIF said in a statement.

Speaking to Asharq Business, Douglas said the new airline would launch its first international flight in early 2025.

Saudi’s PIF is close to a $35 billion deal to order Boeing commercial jets for the new airline, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal on Saturday.

The deal includes wide-body jets which are often used for long international flights, the report added.

In October last year, Saudi Arabia was in advanced negotiations to order almost 40 A350 jets from Airbus, with Boeing Co also lobbying for a slice of the kingdom’s transportation expansion, industry sources had told Reuters.

Bauer cautioned: “If the new airline wants to compete on the global stage for transit passengers, the key for Saudi Arabia is to further relax restrictions in order to attract and accommodate more international passengers.”

The new national airline represents the fund’s latest investment in the sector, along with the recently announced King Salman International Airport masterplan.

King Salman International Airport will be a major transport hub and is expected to span 57 sq km. It will boost annual passenger numbers from the current 29 million to 120 million by 2030.  

Earlier this month Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority, said that the kingdom’s tourism sector was growing “at the speed of light”.

The country recorded a total of 93.5 million domestic and international visits last year as it transforms “at a scale and pace the world has never witnessed before”, he added.