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Saudi Arabia to launch new international airline

written by Liam McAneny | September 8, 2022

Saudia Airlines will soon have a new competitor.

Saudi Arabia plans to invest up to US$30 billion to launch a second national airline as part of its ongoing attempt to diversify its economy.

The new carrier is one part of a larger investment into the civil aviation sector in the country, which the nation plans to invest $100 billion into by 2030.

A possible name for the airline has been flagged, with ‘RIA’ being submitted to the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, which is backing the project.

The final decision on the name of the airline will be decided by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Work has been reportedly going on towards establishing the airline for the past 12 months.

The airline will be a critical part of an ambitious tourism campaign initiated by Bin Salman, which aims to bring over 100 million visitors per year by 2030. The nation is positioning itself to emerge as the primary aviation hub of the Middle East.

Reducing the country’s dependence on oil is at the cornerstone of this plan, with an intention to develop robust service sectors, with the new airline at the centre of the civil aviation industry expansion.

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The airline will compete with other Middle Eastern aviation giants such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad.

Unlike Saudi Arabia’s current national carrier, Saudia, which is based in Jeddah, ‘RIA’ will be based in Riyadh. ‘RIA’ will also be geared more toward an international tourism passenger demographic, unlike Saudia.

Currently, Saudia is primarily focused on the market of religious travellers. Millions of people make pilgrimages to the holy sites located within the borders of Saudi Arabia each year, with massive spikes during the time periods of the Hajj.

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The new airline will be aiming to achieve 30 million international transit passengers in Riyadh by 2030, a target significantly higher than the current numbers, which sit under 4 million.

No official announcements have been made regarding the intended launch date of the airline yet, however it is expected to occur throughout 2023.

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