Since the past few months, rumours were strong that Saudi Arabia was working on forming a new national airline. The country has officially announced the formation of a new national airline, that will be named “Riyadh Air”. Let’s take a look at the airline’s plans.
Riyadh Air, as the name suggests, will be based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and will be one of the few airlines in the world to have a city’s name in its name. The airline will be wholly-owned by Public Investment Fund (PIF). Riyadh Air will be chaired by His Excellency Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Governor of PIF, while Tony Douglas, who brings more than 40 years of experience in the aviation, transportation and logistics industries and previously was the CEO of Etihad Airways, has been appointed Chief Executive Officer.
The logo of Riyadh Air features an aircraft window with the letter “R” written in it. The airline says that it has used an airplane window in its logo because Riyadh Air will serve as Saudi Arabia’s window to the world. The movement of birds’ wings in flight and the elegant curves of Arabic calligraphy, an integral pillar of Saudi culture, are also essential parts of the Riyadh Air brand.
The main colour that the airline uses is some shade of purple. Inspired by the lavender blossoms that carpet Saudi Arabia, the airline has chosen this color because it “symbolises Saudi generosity and its authentic hospitality”. In my opinion, purple is a colour which is not used by many airlines across the world but the likes of Akasa Air and Bonza use it and the colour looks really good on aircraft.
PIF states that the “new national carrier will leverage Saudi Arabia’s strategic geographic location between the three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe, enabling Riyadh to become a gateway to the world and a global destination for transportation, trade, and tourism”.
Riyadh Air will be a digitally native airline, driven by a pioneering spirit with an obsessive focus on attention to detail and innovation at its heart. We aim to permanently transcend our guests’ perceptions and experiences of flying in the modern world. The new airline comes at a pivotal moment for Saudi Arabia, as it realizes the ambitious goals of Vision 2030. We are privileged to play an active role in showcasing Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural heritage and stunning natural attractions to tourists from around the world.said Tony Douglas, CEO, Riyadh Air.
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The carrier has set an ambitious goal of connecting more than a 100 cities to Riyadh by the year 2030. It has been rumoured that the airline is in talks with Boeing for placing a large order valued at $34 billion at list prices for multiple aircraft. It is most likely that the airline will place an order for Boeing B787-9 aircraft.
According to PIF, Riyadh Air is expected to add $20 billion to non-oil GDP growth, and create more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs. The airline aims to be “the gateway for the Kingdom to the world”.
PIF also states that the new national airline will “serve as a catalyst for the Saudi National Transport and Logistics Strategy and the National Tourism Strategy by increasing air transport options, raising cargo capacity and, in turn, growing international passenger traffic”.
Saudi Arabia has set an ambitious target that seeks to attract 100 million annual visits to the country by 2030 and raise the tourism sector’s contribution to the GDP by more than 10%.
Saudia, the current flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, is mediocre at its best. The airline has not been able to compete with it Middle Eastern counterparts like Emirates and Qatar Airways.
The formation of Riyadh Air comes at a time when the aviation industry is booming worldwide. Established Middle Eastern carriers are giving a tough fight to each other while carriers like Air India have also set ambitious plans to expand internationally.
Riyadh Air says that the airline will be a “hub and spoke” carrier, transporting passengers from A to B via C, something which Saudia is already doing. The airline will certainly have a tough time competing with airlines like Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways but with an ambitious and strong plan that the airline seems to have in place, it is certainly not unachievable.
The perception of visiting Saudi Arabia or transiting via the nation is still not great among people, primarily because of strong cultural rules the country has like consumption of alcohol is not allowed and many others. I am not saying that these rules will be a major factor when someone has to fly via a hub carrier like Riyadh Air but given so many options that they have, why will they transit via a country which has so many strict rules in place? The country will have to open up more to the world, just like what United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman amongst others have done in the past few years. Of course, the perception can always be changed but they will have to work on it and I hope they will!
It will be interesting to track the progress of this airline, given that we have not seen a carrier emerge in the Middle East in the past few years with such ambitious plans!
Featured image by Riyadh Air
What do you think of Riyadh Air? Do you think it will be a successful carrier? Let me know in the comments section below.