Saudi Arabia’s New Airline May Be Called “RIA”


Saudi Arabia is launching a new national airline to be based out of the capital of Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport (RUH) and, sources say, most likely take the name “RIA.“When one thinks of transiting in the Gulf countries, one usually considers Qatar or the UAE. Saudi Arabia is less likely as a perceived option for that long-haul stopover between Europe and Asia, or as a destination in itself, for that matter.

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However, the country hopes to shift the perception on both points as it embarks upon a journey to diversify its economy away from an over-reliance on oil

In June 2021, Saudi Arabia announced its intentions to set up a new flag carrier alongside the existing Saudia, based out of Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED), to help boost international transit travel and tourism.

On Thursday, September 1, media outlet Arabian Business published exclusive information from a source close to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (which is backing the new carrier) that the name “RIA” has been submitted as a preferred option for the new airline. However, in the end, the final decision most likely rests with Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman.

Whatever the name may be, there are grand ambitions indeed for the new endeavor. As part of its “Vision 2030,” Saudi Arabia is targeting 30 million international transit passengers by the end of the decade - compared to only four million currently. The Arabian Business source stated,

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“We are talking about a brand-new airline that aims to do what Emirates did in a quarter of the timescale. It’s unprecedented in the history of aviation. It’s also why they have yet to appoint a CEO – whoever takes this job will have to deliver the most ambitious targets you can imagine.”

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Saudia, currently the only national airline of Saudi Arabia, flies to 90 destinations. However, 27 of these are domestic. In comparison, Emirates currently operates to 158 destinations in 85 countries. Sources say that for Saudi Arabia to succeed in its quest to take on the likes of the Dubai-based giant, it will need to invest $30 billion and build a network of over 150 routes across Europe, North America, South America, Africa and Asia. According to Arabian Business, 60% of all air traffic into Saudia Arabia comes from other Middle Eastern countries. Asia-Pacific comes in second with 20% and Africa at 10%.

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