On Sunday, 14th March 2023, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman officially declared the establishment of a new national airline, Riyadh Air, with industry expert Tony Douglas serving as its CEO. This move is part of Saudi Arabia’s strategy to compete with other transportation and travel hubs in the region.
Led by Tony Douglas who is an ex-Etihad executive, Riyadh Air is completely owned by Public Investment Fund or PIF – Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund – and will be based at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport. PIF has more than $600 billion in assets and is the primary driver of the country’s endeavours to diversify its economy and go beyond oil dependency.
The new airlines hopes to operate to more than 100 destinations by 2030 and is expected to add $20 billion to Saudi Arabia’s non-oil GDP growth. Additionally, the airlines is expected to create more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The launch of Riyadh Air could result in a more competitive landscape for passenger air travel, as the airline directly competes with regional powerhouses such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Turkish Airlines. This intensified competition comes as the travel industry works towards recovering from the effects of the pandemic.