Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman formally announced on Sunday the creation of a new national airline, Riyadh Air, with Etihad Aviation boss Tony Douglas as its CEO, as the kingdom moves to compete with regional transport and travel hubs.
Riyadh Air will serve more than 100 destinations around the world by 2030, making use of the kingdom’s location between Asia, Africa and Europe, state news agency SPA said.
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The new airline is expected to add $20bn to Saudi Arabia’s non-oil GDP growth and create more than 200,000 jobs both directly and indirectly, it said.
The announcement may lead to a tougher battle for passengers, going head-to-head with regional giants Emirates, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines as the travel industry recovers from the pandemic.
Riyadh Air is wholly owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, which has more than $600bn in assets and is the main driver of the kingdom’s efforts to diversify its economy and wean itself off oil.
In October, Saudi Arabia was in advanced negotiations to order almost 40 A350 jets from Airbus, with Boeing also lobbying for a slice of the kingdom’s transportation expansion, industry sources had told Reuters.
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The head of state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) said at the time that it was in talks with Boeing and Airbus on orders both for itself and a planned new carrier.