Riyadh Air Could Become The New Emirates/Qatar Airways

Photo Credit: Riyadh Air.

With the backing they have received for this so far, it is a fair assessment to make that Riyadh Air could become the new Emirates/Qatar Airways in terms of its operations when they launch in 2025.

From its official revealing back in March, to a very successful Paris Air Show showing, the carrier is laying down the foundations expected of them under the Public Investment Fund.

Without further ado, let’s get into it…

Riyadh Air’s 2023 So Far…

Riyadh Air Could Become The New Emirates/Qatar Airways
Photo Credit: Riyadh Air.

The announcement of Riyadh Air becoming the latest entrant to the Middle East market was big news, with the Governor of the Public Investment Fund, His Excellency Yasir Al-Rumayyan chairing the airline, and Tony Douglas being CEO.

It is also a big news for the area in Saudi Arabia, with it expected to provide up to 200,000 direct & in-direct jobs, creating around $20bn in non-oil GDP growth as well.

The new Saudi carrier will commence operations with an all-Boeing fleet, following an order for 39 Dreamliners with an option for 33 more.

There was also talk that they will be placing their narrowbody order soon, with initial rumors being up to 150 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, but an overall total of 300-400 narrowbody jets for the other major Saudi carrier, SAUDIA.

By June, ahead of the Paris Air Show, the carrier unveiled its branding, which is understood to be the first of a couple colour schemes that Riyadh Air will showcase.

Following an invite and exclusive interviews with AviationSource, Riyadh Air’s Tony Douglas and Ian Bradley gave some incredible insight into the carrier.

Could They Become The New Emirates/Qatar Airways?

Riyadh Air Could Become The New Emirates/Qatar Airways
Photo Credit: Riyadh Air.


In the context of Douglas, the Paris Air Show is a big opportunity for him to get that message across.

When asked about why passengers should take a gamble by connecting via the Kingdom, rather than the UAE or Qatar, he said:

“That’s the question that everyone asks without understanding the scale. Within Riyadh, 93% of flights are point to point, which has a higher figure than anywhere else in the world. Riyadh is underserved”. 

“We are talking about the second fastest-growing economy in the world here”.

Douglas was also keen to point out that the likes of Emirates, Etihad & Qatar have smaller populations meaning smaller point-to-point figures. 

Bradley added to this in the interview with AviationSource:

“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.”

With the carrier’s aim of serving 100 destinations five years after its launch, it shows that the airline is not messing around, and is wanting to take on the likes of Emirates & Qatar Airways in that market.

How Will Riyadh Air Change The Landscape in the Middle East?

Riyadh Air Could Become The New Emirates/Qatar Airways
Photo Credit: James Field/AviationSource

With all of this in mind, if Riyadh Air gets it right, and ensures that connectivity and sustainability is at the forefront of this business model, then they could definitely take on the likes of Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad etc in that space.

And if they can do it better than their competitors in the Middle East, then the possibilities are endless for them.

As everyone knows in the industry, the Boeing 787-9 is being widely used for the more further afield routes, which could also play well into the hands of the carrier.

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.

Questions have been asked of Tony Douglas in the running of this carrier, especially when he was CEO at Etihad Airways.

However, as well as addressing that in the private event in Paris, he is quite aware of learning from his mistakes, which he hopes to also prove in the running of this airline.


Photo Credit: James Field/AviationSource

Looking ahead, it’s going to be an exciting time for aviation in the Middle East, especially with Riyadh Air coming into the picture by 2025.

All eyes will be on them to see if they achieve their target of 100 destinations, as well as what its narrowbody order will look like too.

The end goal is to provide a world-class service similar to what has been observed with Emirates & Qatar Airways, but also on sustainability as well.

All of this is going to be interesting to see how it all unfolds. But for now, they are definitely doing the right things ahead of launch.

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By James Field - Editor in Chief 7 Min Read
7 Min Read
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