ON AIR // Saudi Arabia’s new national airline targets 150 destinations around the world, enough to rival its Gulf rival Emirates Airlines or Qatar Airways. The cost of this launch: $ 35 billion. By Bernard Deitch
The Gulf states have long recognized that the airline is a strategic and communication tool to meet the challenges of political and economic power in the region.
The company, which will be headed by Tony Douglas, aims, like its Arab competitors, to open 100 destinations from Riyadh and make it the most important center for the Gulf, Asia, Africa and Oceania. The company has been positioned from the outset at the top of the pack like its very big sisters in the Gulf.
For this, Mohammed bin Salman provides the means: planes, infrastructure and men (Tony Douglas, former president of Etihad Airways).
There is already talk of a huge $35 billion order which should benefit primarily Boeing with all catalog ranges, and aircraft leasing company Avialease (which belongs to the Saudi fund).
This initiative will benefit the economy and, according to the authorities, will promote the establishment of many foreign companies in the region.
The city of Riyadh (the economic capital of the country) has already been an open construction site for several years with the construction of offices, luxury residential buildings and above all the expansion of Riyadh Airport to be able to triple its transportation capacity.2050.
The Kingdom intends to create an additional 200,000 jobs and, above all, 20 billion of GDP by 2030.
At the same time, Arabia also desires to develop cultural, regional and upscale tourism such as Al-Ula and Al-Hijrah, beyond the purely regional clientele, where a few foreign hotel groups have settled…with some royal subsidies.
The existing Saudi carrier will be demoted to the rank of a regional company with an operational base in Jeddah for flights to Europe and the Gulf countries.
More than just launching an airline, this project aims for Saudi Arabia to become the strong and primary power in the region ahead of Qatar, the Emirates and, of course, Iran.
History will tell Mohammed bin Salman whether his petrodollars will allow him to compete with his direct competitor Emirates Airlines, which the federation has not managed to get rid of.