Saudi Arabia announces Riyadh Air with investment from Saudi sovereign wealth fund

Word has been out that Saudi Arabia has been working on a new airline, codenamed RIA. Today, the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, announced the details of the upcoming airline, including the name.

Riyadh Air to be launched as the new national airline of Saudi Arabia

Riyadh Air has been announced to be launched as the new national airline of Saudi Arabia. According to the announcement today, the airline will be based in the capital city of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, and is meant to expand the aviation ecosystem of Saudi Arabia.

a logo and clouds in the sky

The airline intends to connect Saudi Arabia’s capital to over 100 destinations by 2030. As a part of this announcement and planning, a new airport will also be opened in Riyadh. While a couple of days ago, there was a buzz about an order to be signed up with Boeing simultaneously. The order, however, was not announced. Riyadh Air intends to acquire “modern” aircraft.

The airline will be funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to expand travel and tourism in Saudi Arabia. The airline is expected to add USD 20 billion of non-oil GDP growth to the economy of Saudi Arabia. It is expected to create 200,000 jobs (direct and indirect) along the way.

The PIF also unveiled the details of the leadership. The Chairman of Riyadh Air will be Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of PIF. The former boss of Etihad, Tony Douglas, has been announced as the airline’s CEO.

a man in a suit and tie

The airline will be based out of a brand-new airport, capable of handling around 185 million passengers per year. King Salman International Airport will cover 57 square kilometres, have six parallel runways and can handle 185 million passengers per year when fully built up.

Unfortunately, no more details are being offered, such as the timeline for the launch of operations. Of course, there need to be aircraft for the purpose of launch, which can be picked up from the lease market as well, but these details are missing as well for now.

Why is Saudi Arabia investing in a second airline?

Saudi Arabia already has Saudia, which has grown significantly and recently invested in a modern fleet. The airline serves a nice niche and offers a modern product at a reasonable price, chipping away a bit at the share of Emirates and Qatar Airways, amongst other ME-based carriers.

A school of thought that is being thrown around is that Saudia has legacy issues without clarifying what these issues are, so why not start from scratch? When you have a considerable amount of money, having a start-up airline or one that already has established operations does not make a difference. Having two airlines would be a hedge, and a merger could be done later. Or they could co-exist like Etihad and Emirates. Or it could be the case of an airline being created to occupy the new airport. No, I am not talking of a tail-wag-the-dog approach, but the whole ecosystem was on the books, and we only hear of the parts we need to hear.


Riyadh Air will be Saudi Arabia’s new national airline, intended to be launched soon and cover about 100 global destinations by 2030. According to the news reports, an aircraft order is coming up soon, and the airline will have Tony Douglas as the boss. The airline intends to take on Emirates and become a player in the transit of passengers via Riyadh.

What do you think of the concept of Riyadh Air?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. Another gravy train project enriching loads of European origin expats.

    Everyone knows that NEOM and Vision2030 with that line city is a complete fantasy but boy oh boy, if your white European and can fill your pockets at the same time, it’s like winning the lottery.

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