The new Saudi airline, due to begin operations in 2025, will be showing off its livery on the show's static display, and will be distilling information about its launch very gradually.
In the highly prestigious setting of the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, ahead of the opening of the Paris Air Show on Monday June 19, the brand-new Saudi airline Riyadh Air, presented its brand identity and aircraft livery, even though it does not yet have a fleet.
Start of operations planned for 2025
The airline is due to start operations in 2025, and plans to provide full-service service to around 100 destinations worldwide from Riyadh's King Khalid International Airport. The small start-up, well ahead of the launch of its activities, will be present on the static display at the 2023 Paris Air Show with a Boeing 787 (recovered from China Southern), which will be presented in the company's first colors, but which we will not be able to visit. Riyadh Air specifies that this is one of two liveries that will be used, suggesting that another livery could be presented at the Dubai Air Show, the 2023 edition of which is due to take place from November 12 to 16 this year.
72 Boeing 787-9s on order
On the fleet side, Riyadh Air currently has an open order with Boeing for 72 Boeing 787-9s (39 ordered firm and 33 on option). Before the Paris Air Show, there were rumours of a possible additional order for 150 Boeing 737 MAXs and around 40 Airbus A350s, but these orders are expected to come later, certainly at the Dubai Air Show. In any case, CEO Tony Douglas has announced that "there will be no order announcements made" at the 2023 Paris Air Show.
Saudi Arabia's tourism potential
What's certain is that the two years between now and the launch of Riyadh Air's first flight will be used for a lengthy communications plan. Nevertheless, the airline makes no secret of its ambitions, and plans to have a network of 100 destinations by 2030. Tony Douglas puts forward several arguments for launching the company. For the time being, 93% of traffic from Riyadh is point-to-point, and the Saudi capital is largely underserved. What's more, the size of Saudi Arabia is half the size of Western Europe, and the distance between Riyadh and Jeddah (the country's second-largest city and Saudia's stronghold) is the same as the distance between London and Rome, meaning that there is real potential for a second national carrier. Saudi Arabia also has clear potential for domestic traffic. 35 million people live in the kingdom, far more than in other nearby countries such as Qatar (population 2.8 million) or the United Arab Emirates (population 9.5 million). By 2023, the population of Riyadh itself is set to double from 8 to 15 million. Finally, Saudi Arabia is engaged in a vast development of its tourism and aims to attract 100 million tourist visitors by 2030.
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