Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday formally announced the creation of a new national airline, Riyadh Air, with industry veteran Tony Douglas as chief executive, as the kingdom begins to compete with regional transport and travel hubs.
Riyadh Air will serve more than 100 destinations worldwide by 2030, taking advantage of the kingdom’s location between Asia, Africa and Europe, state news agency SPA said.
The new airline is expected to add $20 billion to Saudi Arabia’s non-oil GDP growth and create more than 200,000 jobs directly and indirectly.
The announcement could lead to a tougher battle for passengers with regional giants Emirates, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines as the travel industry recovers from the pandemic.
Riyadh Air is 100 percent owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), which has more than $600 billion 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 talks to order nearly 40 A350 planes from Airbus ( AIR.PA ), with Boeing Co ( BA.N ) also lobbying for part of the kingdom’s transport expansion, industry sources told Reuters.
The head of state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) told Reuters at the time that it was in talks with Boeing and Airbus about orders for both itself and the planned new carrier.