Saudi Arabia launches new airline, plans to turn Riyadh into aviation hub

A new national airline will be launched in Saudi Arabia as part of a strategy to develop Riyadh into a worldwide aviation hub that can compete with regional aviation giants such as Dubai and Doha, as reported by AFP.

By 2030, Riyadh Air “aims to launch flights to more than 100 destinations around the world,” according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the country’s official news agency.

SPA announced the appointment of Tony Douglas, a former CEO of Etihad Airlines, located in Abu Dhabi.

As part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s comprehensive “Vision 2030” reform agenda, the Saudi government is pursuing lofty aviation targets, including more than doubling annual traffic to 330 million passengers by the end of the decade. Up to five million tonnes of freight each year are also among its goals.

The new airline is the latest in “a huge package of projects” that will “consolidate our country’s position as an international hub for aviation and a global logistics centre”, Saudi transport minister Saleh Al-Jasser said on Twitter.

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Officials unveiled plans for a new airport in the Saudi capital of Riyadh in November 2022. The airport will be 57 square kilometres (22 square miles) in size and have enough for 120 million passengers by 2030 and 185 million passengers by 2050.

The Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund that will run the airline, was “close to a deal” with Boeing for an aircraft purchase “valued at $35 billion,” according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Sunday’s announcement said Riyadh Air would operate a “fleet of advanced aircraft”, but did not specify how big the fleet would be or from where it would be sourced. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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