Saudi Arabia to launch new multi-billion-dollar international airline: reports

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Saudi Arabia is about to launch a new multi-billion-dollar international airline which will become the kingdom’s second national carrier, according to local outlet Arabian Business.

It is reported that Saudi Arabia has been working on the new airline’s for the past 12 months, and that the new venture is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Sources close to the PIF told Arabian Business that “RIA” is being tipped as the name for the new carrier. The name ‘RIA’ has been submitted to the PIF as a preferred option, though the final decision is likely to be made by Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman.

Saudia vs RIA: What is the difference? 

The kingdom plans to make Riyadh the new carrier’s city base, with the city of Jeddah being the base headquarters of Saudia, current national carrier. 

Saudia’s current focus is the religious traffic market, bringing pilgrims to Saudi Arabia’s holy sites, especially during the Hajj pilgrimage.

A challenger for Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways?

According to 2021 reports, when Saudi Arabia first hinted at creating a new global airline, the kingdom plans for RIA to take on major Middle Eastern powerhouse carriers like Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways. 

One of Saudi Arabia’s objectives for Vision 2030 is a $100 billion investment in the aviation sector over the next eight years, the bulk of which will go towards establishing a new national carrier serving global routes. 

“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,” a source told Arabian Business.

“Right now, about 60% of all air traffic into Saudi comes from the Middle East. Asia-Pacific is around 20 percent, Africa just 10 percent – this is where the huge potential is,” the source added.

Saudi Arabia plans to target 30 million international transit passengers by 2030, compared to its current number of under 4 million.

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