On 12 March 2023, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman formally announced the establishment of Riyadh Air, the country’s newest national airline. Riyadh Air will be chaired by the Governor of Public Investment Fund (PIF), the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, Yasir Al-Rumayyan. At the same time, former Etihad Airways CEO Tony Douglas has been appointed Chief Executive Officer.
Operating from Riyadh as its hub, Riyadh Air, the new national airline, is expected to add $20 billion to non-oil GDP growth, and create more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs. The airline plans to grow a global network that will include 100 destinations. Under its Vision 2030.
Peter Bellew will join as Chief Operating Officer with many years of experience in similar roles at Malaysia Airlines, Ryanair, and easyJet. Tony Douglas previously served as the CEO of Abu Dhabi Airports Company (2013–2015) and the chief executive of Etihad Airways from January 2018 to October 2022.
In the ambitious plans of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh Air is aiming to be the largest airline in terms of revenue across the Middle East, beating the industry’s Gulf rivals such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad. Riyadh Air expects to grow its route network to 100 destinations by 2030.
It is not clear, however, what will be the role of Saudia Airlines, the country’s traditional flag carrier and which is also controlled by the Saudi government. Riyadh Air hopes to turn the Saudi capital into a regional travel hub to rival Dubai and Doha.
“Riyadh Air will be an international carrier, it will be a regional carrier and it will be a national carrier within obviously the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia itself. So we’ll touch all points within the network,” Tony Douglas, the CEO of Riyadh Air said.
“This is a statement of intent by the kingdom. This is about a brand of Riyadh. This is about the hub being here in the capital city. And this is about allowing the kingdom to have better connectivity to the world and, as importantly, the world to have better connectivity to the kingdom.”
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