Saudi Arabia will soon have a strong competitor to Emirates and Qatar Airways

A powerful competitor to Emirates and Qatar Airways will soon appear in Saudi Arabia


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A launch date for the new airline has yet to be confirmed, but has already been announced — the carrier intends to bring the number of destinations worldwide to 100 over the next seven years. No one has yet had such a development plan, and experts talk about a serious test of the readiness of the infrastructure of Saudi Arabia, as well as the ability of Airbus and Boeing to deliver a sufficient number of aircraft within the agreed time frame.

Over the past year, the airline has been mentioned simply under codenamed RIA, but on Sunday the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund announced the creation of Riyadh Air.

Riyadh Air will be funded and 100 percent owned by the Saudi government. It has also been confirmed that former Etihad Airways chief executive Tony Douglas has agreed to lead the ambitious new project.

Douglas, who turned Etihad Airways into a profitable airline after the airline suffered massive multi-billion dollar losses, has abruptly left the leadership of flag carrier Abu- Dabi last October.

There were rumors that the Saudis had lured him to take on the RIA project, although in January his participation in the company already looked dubious — anonymous sources have reported in local media that Douglas has left Riyadh.

Riyadh Air will become one of Saudi Arabia's two national carriers and will attempt to emulate Emirates' success by exploiting the Kingdom's “strategic geographic location between the three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe”, attracting transit passengers traveling from East to West and back.

News agencies reported on Saturday that Saudi Arabia is close to reaching a $35 billion deal with aircraft maker Boeing. We are talking about the supply of both wide-body and narrow-body aircraft, in total more than 100 copies. A separate deal with rival European manufacturer Airbus is also in the works.

Some of the new aircraft were for long-running national carrier Saudia. It will now focus its operations outside of Jeddah and continue to cater to religious passengers.

Riyadh Air will try to attract a much more cosmopolitan audience, while promising to maintain “genuine warm Saudi hospitality.”

< p> The base for the airline will be a completely new airport, designed by the British architectural firm Foster and Partners, headquartered in London. King Salman International Airport will cover a huge area of ​​57 square kilometers, will have six parallel runways and will be able to serve 185 million passengers a year.

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