Tony Douglas, CEO of Riyadh Air, Saudi Arabia’s new airline, explains that it will focus on the niche market of flights to and from KSA as the Kingdom emerges as a tourism hub by connecting to more than 100 destinations by 2030.
Riyadh Air, the rising star in the Saudi Arabian sky, is distancing itself from regional giants like Emirates and Qatar Airways. The airline aims to cultivate a strong local market presence rather than relying on transit passengers.
A New Business Model for the Middle East
In the Middle East, the aviation industry has been traditionally driven by transit flights, supported by the strategic geographical location of the region serving as a crossroads between Asia, Africa, and Europe. However, Riyadh Air plans to diverge from this conventional approach.
The airline has identified a lucrative niche in serving tourists and locals traveling between Riyadh and over 100 international destinations through direct, non-stop flights.
This business model is particularly suited to Saudi Arabia, with a robust population of nearly 36 million and a burgeoning tourism sector.
The Driving Force behind Riyadh Air
Riyadh Air is the brainchild of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, marking a significant investment in diversifying the nation’s economy. It echoes the country’s Vision 2030, which envisions transforming Saudi Arabia into a world-class tourist hub.
The airline’s CEO, Tony Douglas, envisions an ambitious growth strategy. He acknowledges the plans as “super aggressive” but emphasizes the potential of focusing on a vast local population and the emerging tourism market.
A Differentiated Approach
Riyadh Air plans to distinguish itself by offering a luxurious flying experience to tourists. At the same time, Saudia, the country’s existing national carrier, will continue to serve religious pilgrims and conservatives, catering to the diverse needs of the aviation market.
A Greener Perspective
In line with global commitments towards environmental sustainability, Riyadh Air also plans to incorporate eco-friendly practices. The airline intends to operate electric and hybrid aircraft, exclusively using environmentally friendly moorings, demonstrating its commitment to sustainable practices in aviation.
Riyadh Air’s fleet is set to include 39 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner wide-body aircraft. The airline has also signed a deal with GE Aerospace for 90 GEnx-1B engines to power its new fleet. However, due to supply chain disruptions and delivery delays, the airline’s launch date has shifted to 2025.
Riyadh Air is actively exploring partnerships to enhance its offerings. For instance, it has collaborated with UK-based Dive Butler International to elevate the aquatic and diving experience at Sindalah, a luxury island.
Under this partnership, Dive Butler will operate a five-star Professional Association of Diving Instructors dive center, offering a wide range of aquatic activities.
The Future of Riyadh Air
Riyadh Air’s future looks promising. With its unique business model, strong backing, and diverse potential customer base, the airline is well-positioned to make a significant impact on the aviation industry in the Middle East and beyond.
Riyadh Air’s Ambitious Plans
The launch of Riyadh Air is a testament to Saudi Arabia’s commitment to diversifying its economy and enhancing its tourism sector. By focusing on point-to-point flights, the airline is poised to provide a unique and luxurious experience for travelers while also catering to the local population.
Despite the challenges, Riyadh Air’s ambitious plans and strategic partnerships bode well for its future success. It will be interesting to watch this rising star and see how it shapes the aviation landscape in the years to come.