Riyadh Air, per Financial Times, is targeting substantial expansion as it gears up for a launch but notes it’s not after clashing with neighbours such as Emirates and Qatar Airways.
The upcoming Saudi Arabia-based carrier emerged with ambitious plans backed by significant funds. When launched, the airline will fly initially with Boeing 787s and is part of Saudi Arabia’s plans to grow the economy by 2030.
Due to its geographical position, it was often pitted against the likes of Emirates, Qatar and Etihad. However, new comments from Tony Douglas indicate the carrier isn’t aiming to battle close neighbours in the Gulf region, instead forging its path in the Saudi market. It is described as a niche market for the airline with great potential.
Calls that the airline won’t be commercially viable were rejected by Tony Douglas, who, understanding the plans were aggressive and ambitious, believes that the company has a lot of possibilities. This includes offering one of the best onboard experiences seen globally, emphasising the guest experience.
Riyadh Air additionally wants to make Saudi Arabia a destination people visit rather than transit through; this is seen with other Gulf carriers like Qatar Airways, the specific example highlighted by Tony Douglas, who said many of the traffic filters onwards rather than staying in Doha.
Saudi Arabia has a population of 35.95 million as of 2021’s latest figures; this is up from 9.365 million in the United Arab Emirates and only 2.688 million in Qatar. Therefore, the country has a massive benefit thanks to its population, which will aid it in not just being a transit location.
The Saudi Arabia Sovereign Wealth Fund is backing the launch of Riyadh Air, which will operate with the already-flying Saudia, a company that also recently got a substantial amount of support in the form of a new aircraft order as well.
Riyadh Air will target a launch in the coming years as it welcomes its first Boeing 787, a series selected to drive operations at the company forward. However, Tony Douglas remains hesitant about the ongoing supply chain crisis that has delayed deliveries and impacted some carrier’s rebound following the pandemic.