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Riyadh Air Confirms ‘Super Aggressive’ Plans For Point-to-Point Growth for the Saudi Market

Riyadh Air Confirms ‘Super Aggressive’ Plans For Point-to-Point Growth for the Saudi Market

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Riyadh Air CEO Tony Douglas has told the Financial Times that the fledgling airline will focus on point-to-point traffic serving the local Saudi Arabian market rather than going head to head with regional behemoths Emirates and Qatar Airways, whose business strategies are much more reliant on transit passengers.

In an interview with the British newspaper on Sunday, Douglas admitted that Riyadh Air’s growth plans were “super aggressive,” but the former chief executive of Etihad Airways said the airline wouldn’t compete directly with local competitors for transit passengers.

In recent decades, the Middle East has built itself into the new travel crossroads of the world, helped by its strategic geographic location between the three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe.

But Riyadh Air, which is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, isn’t focusing on low-yield transit passengers and will instead turn its attention to tourists and locals travelling between Riyadh and up to 100 destinations worldwide on direct non-stop flights.

Douglas used neighbouring Qatar as an example of why Saudi Arabia was pursuing a different strategy with Riyadh Air.

“If we look at our closest neighbour, Qatar, obviously Qatar Airways have got an incredible international network, global reach, and a population of give or take 2 million people,” Douglas said.

With such a small local population, Qatar Airways had to focus on transit passengers, whereas Saudi Arabia has a local population of nearly 36 million people.

On top of that, Saudi Arabia is only just beginning to diversify its economy through mass tourism to the Kingdom. Riyadh Air is destined to become the ultra-luxe welcome to Saudi Arabia for millions of tourists, while the existing national carrier Saudia will cater to religious pilgrims and conservatives.

Riyadh Air has already announced the purchase of 39 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft, and the airline has options to buy an additional 33 Dreamliners. Delivery delays mean the airline won’t be able to launch until 2025 at the earliest.

The carrier also remains locked in talks with both Boeing and Airbus on a single-aisle aircraft order, although supply chain issues are also hampering a deal being made.

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