Saudi Arabia’s flag carrier has confirmed plans to abandon the capital Riyadh, within the next six years and concentrate its business in Jeddah, where it will serve Umrah and Hajj pilgrimage passengers, as well as a new wave of foreign tourists visiting luxury resorts around the Red Sea.
The future business strategy for Saudia has been much talked about since the Kingdom’s surprise decision to create a brand new airline based out of Riyadh – the aptly named Riyadh Air, which is slated to launch in 2025.
With the creation of Riyadh Air, it was widely expected that Saudia would retreat from the capital and focus on its operations out of Jeddah, although, until now, the airline has remained tight-lipped on its plans and had suggested that it would go head to head with Riyadh Air.
Now, however, in an interview with Airways magazine, Abdullah Alshahrani, Saudia’s media affairs general manager, explains: “We have a pillar in our transformation program called ‘Jeddah Hub’.”
“Riyadh Air will concentrate on the businesses, compromises, and all activities in Riyadh,” Alshahrani told the publication. “Saudia will concentrate on Hajj and Umrah, tourism, and west coast projects.”
Peter Bellew, Riyadh Air’s new chief operating officer, also confirmed to Airways that Saudia would abandon its dual hub strategy and focus its operations in Jeddah.
“Saudia has more business than it can handle with the current fleet down in Jeddah,” Bellew said at the Dubai Air Show this week. “They will, over time, move back to Jeddah”.
The current plan is for Saudia to move out of Riyadh by 2030, giving enough time for Riyadh to establish its operations in the city.
“If you think about it, the capital is Riyadh, and our brand is Riyadh,” Bellew explained. “We will promote the capital and all its attractions as we move around the world”.
Riyadh Air and Saudia are both owned by the government of Saudia Arabia so it makes sense for the two airlines to cooperate with one another and chase after different markets rather than compete against one another.
Both airlines will be concentrating on attracting point-to-point traffic to Saudi Arabia and don’t intend to chase transit passengers connecting through Middle East hubs for long-haul flights between East and West.
Riyadh Air showcased its new lighter livery at the Dubai Air Show this week, but the airline wasn’t in a position to announce an eagerly anticipated single-aisle aircraft order. The deal is likely to be announced in the coming weeks in Saudi Arabia.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.