Usually, when people think of transiting through the Gulf region, they most of the time think of Qatar (Qatar Airways) or the UAE (Emirates Airlines or Etihad Airways). Saudi Arabia is less likely to be perceived as a long-haul stopover between Europe and Asia. However, as it embarks on a journey to diversify its economy away from an over-reliance on oil, the country hopes to change perceptions on both points. To that end, Saudi Arabia is launching a new national airline that will be based at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport (RUH) and will most likely be named “RIA.”
As previously announced by the Saudi Minster of transportation back in May during Future Aviation Forum that was held in Riyadh; Eng. Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, that there are plans to launch a new flag carrier besides the current and only one; SAUDIA.
“Over the next 10 years the Kingdom will emerge as the middle east’s leading aviation hub, and as a partner of choice for the aviation operators throughout the world, to do this, the government will drive investment of more than US$100BN of public and private investments by the end of the decade. We forecast to fly more than 330 million passengers in 2030 and 5 million tons of freights establishing connections to more than 250 destinations.”Eng. Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Transport and Logistics and the Chairman of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA)
According to Arabian Business, which published an exclusive article about this on the 1st of September; the country has been working on launching this airline for the past year, with the new venture backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
What we know about RIA so far
“RIA” is being suggested as the name for the new carrier, according to sources close to the PIF. However, the final decision will almost certainly be made by Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman. Once operational, it will operate out of Riyadh as Saudi Arabia’s second national carrier. Mentioning that the current national Carrier; SAUDIA operates from Jeddah.
RIA vs. Emirates Airlines
;”We are talking about a brand-new airline that aims to do what Emirates did in a quarter of the timescale. It’s unprecedented in the history of aviation. It’s also why they have yet to appoint a CEO – whoever takes this job will have to deliver the most ambitious targets you can imagine”Arabian Business’s Source
Saudia, the national airline, currently serves 90 destinations. However, 27 of these are domestic. Emirates, on the other hand, currently serves 158 destinations in 85 countries. According to sources, Saudi Arabia will need to invest $30 billion and build a network of over 150 routes across Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia in order to compete with the Dubai-based giant. According to Arabian Business, other Middle Eastern countries account for 60% of all air traffic into Saudi Arabia. Asia-Pacific comes in second with 20%, followed by Africa with 10%.
Cover Photo credits: Akbarali Mastan