Riyadh Air Doesn't Plan To Compete With Emirates
14.11.2023 - 15:09
/ Josh Corder
The chief operating officer of Saudi Arabia’s new airline, Riyadh Air, doesn’t expect the carrier will become a “super-connecter” but will focus instead on “point-to-point” travel. And COO Peter Bellew told at the Dubai Airshow Tuesday that Ryadh Air will meet different needs than nearby Emirates.
“Emirates is a great airline, but a lot of Riyadh Air’s traffic will be point-to-point. A lot of people are going to Riyadh. We just want to make it really easy for travelers to get point-to-point. I don’t see us being some super-connector, I think it will be the reverse,” he said.
Launching in the middle of 2025, Riyadh Air hopes to fly to more than 100 destinations by the end of the decade. The airline expects to cover all major cities, including those in the Americas, and adding $20 billion to the kingdom’s economy.
The airline is owned by the country’s immense sovereign wealth fund, called the Public Investment Fund, or PIF. The sovereign wealth fund is investing in what is anticipated to become one of the largest airports globally.
Revealed last year, the King Salman International Airport in Riyadh aims to cater to a capacity of up to 185 million passengers and handle 3.5 million tons of cargo by 2050. By comparison, Atlanta’s airport, presently the busiest in the world, managed approximately 110 million passengers in 2019.
Regional neighbor Dubai has one of the busiest airports in the world, where Emirates is based. Airport operator Dubai Airports said it served 41.6 million guests in the first half of 2023, a 49% increase from the first half of 2022.
As the name suggests, Riyadh Air is heavily focused on operations out of the city. Saudia, the long-standing national carrier, is being pushed more heavily into its base in Jeddah so Riyadh Air can lead the way in the capital.
Bellew said: “If you look at Saudia’s position, the demand for people to go to Jeddah is exponentially large. The traffic there is increasing beyond everybody’s expectations. It has an enormous religious tourism demand. Every piece of metal Saudia has, they’ll need to deploy it down in Jeddah.”
“Saudia needs the metal [in Jeddah] and they would’ve needed to increase in size to what we will be [if they stayed in Riyadh].”
Much like how Emirates’ success has been intrinsically tied to the tourism success story of Dubai, Bellew has similar aspirations for Riyadh Air.
He said: “Riyadh is our brand, it’s the brand of the city and that city is the capital. All the billions going into the city will benefit Riyadh Air and the city will benefit from having our brand flying around the world.”
The country has a tourism target of 150 million travelers by 2030, combining both international and domestic guests to hit that goal. Tourism