Saudi launches third airline at NEOM alongside RIA, SAUDIA
The airline would promote the breathtaking location as a centre for international travellers, with direct flights to destinations in Europe and Asia. It would be the third Saudi carrier after Saudia and the soon-to-be-launched RIA.
The Kingdom is reportedly eager to market NEOM as a stand-alone destination with its own dedicated aircraft, though preparations are still in the early stages.
The megacity will stretch 170 kilometres along the Red Sea coast and have a total area of 26,500 square kilometres. The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), which also provided finance for the new Saudi airline RIA, is supporting it.
With the current national carrier Saudia and NEOM branded livery, NEOM already offers direct flights to a few regional and international destinations from its NEOM Bay Airport.
“Geography and demand are the key factors here. NEOM is essentially sandwiched between three continents, and a four-hour flight will get you to 40% of the planet. “The issue for now is how this fits into the current vision of having two carriers, Saudi and RIA,” the source said. “Given the immense scale of this project and how it is envisaged to become one of the tourist capitals of the world, having a dedicated airline that basically just flies to NEOM and back makes a lot of strategic sense.”
According to Arabian Business, Saudi Arabia’s upcoming airline, to be known as RIA, will be based in Riyadh and aspire to compete with Emirates and Qatar Airways as a major international carrier in the long run. The current national carrier Saudia operates out of Jeddah as part of the Saudis’ dual-hub policy.
According to Arabian Business, RIA has asked Tony Douglas from Etihad to serve as its new CEO. Douglas, who has been in charge of Etihad since January 2018, is RIA’s “first choice,” according to insiders in the industry. It is thought that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is investing $30 billion in the new airline, is confident in landing Douglas to lead the new enterprise.
The brand-new airline will debut in the fourth quarter of this year. According to sources, the first phase will involve a regional takeoff using Boeing 737Max and Airbus A320 aircraft.
The $100 billion investment in aviation as part of the nation’s Vision 2030 is centred on the launch of RIA. A large portion of this will go toward setting up the new carrier and any necessary infrastructure.