Paris Air Show: Riyadh Air’s Big Week Highlights Potential

Paris Air Show: Riyadh Air's Big Week Highlights Potential
Photo Credit: James Field/AviationSource

One big highlight within the Paris Air Show was Riyadh Air’s presence. AviationSource has been following them closely over the course of this week.

From showcasing its new Indigo-based livery, to sitting down with the Vice President of Global Communications, Ian Bradley, the carrier has been very welcoming in advertising their new carrier.

Without further ado, let’s get into it…

The Riyadh Air Boeing 787 at the Paris Air Show…

Paris Air Show: Riyadh Air's Big Week Highlights Potential
Photo Credit: James Field/AviationSource

N9572C, which is one of Boeing’s registrations, showcased the full livery of the aircraft at the Paris Air Show.

However, this aircraft is not going to be destined to Riyadh Air for quite sometime, with deliveries expected to take place in 2025.

The carrier is aiming to serve up to 100 destinations by 2030, with the 72 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners it has on order to begin with, with its narrowbody order expected to be announced in Q4 of this year.

On the topic of its 787-9s, this week saw Riyadh Air sign a deal with GE Aerospace for 90 GEnx engines at the Paris Air Show.

Commenting on this was CEO of Riyadh Air, Tony Douglas:

“The agreement highlights our determination to significantly extend Saudi Arabia’s connectivity with the world and fulfill our goal of connecting to 100 destinations by 2030.”

“We look forward to fostering strong strategic relationships within the wider aviation ecosystem as we continue to shape our new digitally native airline to become one of the most sustainable and guest-centric carriers in the world.”

Russell Stokes, President & CEO, Commercial Engines and Services for GE Aerospace said, “We are proud to partner with Riyadh Air to support its new fleet and fulfill its vision for long international routes.”

“GE Aerospace’s GEnx engine is a perfect fit for the 787 fleet with its combination of power and the ability to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.”

Discussing its Origins…

Photo Credit: James Field/AviationSource

Discussing its origins and much more to AviationSource was Ian Bradley, the Senior Vice President for Communications at Riyadh Air, who discussed a lot to me during the Paris Air Show.

On the topic of utilising Riyadh as a heavier connection point within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bradley said the following:

“So there’s a really exciting and well developed aviation ecosystem in Saudi Arabia already. We already have an international carrier Saudia and we’re becoming the second national carrier”.

“Riyadh doesn’t have a lot of global connectivity compared to a lot of its peers around the world, as you know. The population of Riyadh is give or take about 8 million people.

“But it’s a 93% Point to Point market, which is unprecedented for a capital city of that of that size, net scale.”

So if you want to fly at the moment from Riyadh to somewhere like Tokyo, or Shanghai or Sydney you have to connect to one of our neighbours in the in the region more than likely.”

“So our job is to build that connectivity for the kingdom first and foremost, so that people can come into the kingdom, whether they come as tourists or business visitors, or visit friends and relatives, for example, or if it’s for outbound as well for the citizens and residents of the kingdom.”

“So they will travel around the world as well. So that’s extremely important to them.”

“We wanted to make it incredibly better served to, you know, redress this balance with this 93% And that’s something that we are one of our major focuses.”

Inspiration Behind The Stunning Livery…

Paris Air Show: Riyadh Air's Big Week Highlights Potential
Photo Credit: James Field/AviationSource

We also asked what the inspiration was behind this stunning livery, which stood out like an amazing thumb at the Paris Air Show. Bradley replied:

“We feel it’s very stylish and elegant and reflective of our modern Saudi Arabia as well. Our CEO, Tony Douglas, he said it should be on the front cover of Vogue or fashion magazines, not just aviation magazines, it’s so stylish and eye catching, and we’re very proud of it.”

“So the colours coming from lavender and indigo lavender predominantly, is those carbs of lavender in the desert in the spring. When the rains come and it’s slightly cooler.”

“You will see a lot more lavender in the desert. So that’s where it gave it has come from the idea of develop from there, and we’re very proud but as a result, the logo was particularly stylish as well which is released a few months ago.”

“And the logo obviously you’ve got the window which is a window onto the world we’re looking through that we’ve got the very heavily stylized or which is in kind of Arabic calligraphy as well, but also reflects the wings of a of a bird.”

“So you’re trying three different kind of motifs in there together, which is about you know, looking at the world and the Arabic kind of flight as well and the Arabic script.”

Widebodies First, Narrowbodies Later…

Paris Air Show: Riyadh Air's Big Week Highlights Potential
Photo Credit: James Field/AviationSource

One thing that has been notably observed amongst those in the industry is Riyadh Air’s focus on widebodies first, narrowbodies later.

This was first emphasised by Tony Douglas during an event in Central Paris last Sunday, but Bradley went into some more detail on this:

“You need the right fit for purpose aircraft to be able to deliver those routes. Now, we haven’t announced those routes.”

“But if you think of the global major global cities around the world, the European capitals, the East Coast of the US and Asia as well.”


“To be able to serve those markets, we should be potentially part of our initiative. You need to have the right aircraft that are fit for purpose, and that’s where a great aircraft like the 787-9 would be able to help us in terms of capacity and length as well.”

“So it’s a it’s the right mix for us. You know, we’re also looking there’s, you know, very competitive process underway at the moment for narrowbodies.”

“That will be revealed probably Q4 this year with the decision is made because, you know, there’s a little bit of maybe a shorter lead in time for some of those aircraft as well.”

“But first of all, we will be looking at, potentially the more longer haul destinations, so that’s why we we’ve gone for the longer haul aircraft first.”

Interlining Connectivity with SAUDIA Looks Inevitable…

Paris Air Show: Riyadh Air's Big Week Highlights Potential
Photo Credit: James Field/AviationSource

Another thing that Riyadh Air’s Ian Bradley mentioned to us at the Paris Air Show is about the inevitable interlining agreements with SAUDIA that will no doubt be made to add further connectivity across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

This is also related to the widebodies first, narrowbodies later mindset, as these aircraft will not be delivered for quite some time.

“We’re gonna have a very strong, stable relationship with Saudi Arabia, you know, there are our friends in Jeddah.”

“You know, they’re all part of the ecosystem in Saudi Arabia. We work very closely together and we live in a very strong relationship with them.”

“But we also have very strong relationships with other international global carriers as well.”

“Tony said he was overwhelmed with the support he got recently at the IATA AGM in Istanbul a few weeks back, where airlines were very keen to work with us and they’re, kind of openly courting us”.

“So we’re seeing very, very strong international and domestic support as well.”

“And that will allow us to be able to develop our network even further, especially in the early days when you don’t have that critical mass of aeroplanes to be able to extend your reach across the world or domestically as well.”

Closing up the Discussion…

Photo Credit: James Field/AviationSource

Closing up the discussion with Bradley at the Paris Air Show, he said the following to AviationSource:

“There’s about 110 of us at the moment, you know, we all come from a wide variety of nationalities and airline backgrounds.”

“And it’s an incredibly exciting place to be to see this as you know, the dominant story of aviation over the next 10-20 years where Riyadh is going to be very much open for business when it comes to tourism and business traffic.”

“So we say to people, please come and have a look at this place for yourself (Riyadh). It’s an incredible destination.”

“It’s developing all the time. And as an airline, we will be developing a world class airline which will have laser focus on the customer experience, but also on sustainability as well.”

What remains clear is that Riyadh Air has had an incredible week at the Paris Air Show, and has been able to show what they stand for.

Air travel in Saudi Arabia is undergoing a major expansion, that will see the likes of Riyadh Air and SAUDIA thrive under the investment made under the Public Investment Fund.

For now, all eyes are on Riyadh Air for what is going to come over the next 2-5 years, as well as how quickly they can get to 100 destinations by 2030!

By James Field - Editor in Chief 12 Min Read
12 Min Read
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