JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s new flagship airline Riyadh Air will place a second major aircraft order “in weeks,” its chief executive said on Monday.
The airline has already provisionally ordered 72 Boeing 787 widebody jets and narrowbodies were next, Tony Douglas said. “We have concluded our narrowbody campaign,” he said. Industry analysts believe the order could be made public at the Dubai Air Show, which begins next week.
Former Etihad Airways boss Douglas was hired in March to lead Riyadh Air, owned by the Public Investment Fund. He declined to say how many jets the new airline would buy, but called the order “sizeable” and said the deal would be “a very, very clear signal of intent.”
“This is the biggest startup since Qatar Airways,” he said.
The creation of a second Saudi national airline alongside existing flag carrier Saudia is part of the Kingdom’s plan to diversify its economy, and Douglas said he was confident demand for travel would be there.
“We’re not well enough connected. It’s as simple as that,” he said. The new airline would benefit from Saudi Arabia’s fast-growing economy and the attraction of more tourists to the Kingdom.
Riyadh Air will not look for mergers and acquisitions to help it grow. “No, it's organic,” Douglas said. The first destinations will be the major cities of Europe, the US east coast and Canada, and the inaugural flight will take off by June 2025.
By then Riyadh Air will have secured slots at major airports, Douglas said, although hubs such as London Heathrow are already operating close to capacity.
“It won’t be easy ... but we have no reason to be anything other than confident that we’ll resolve all of that,” he said.