Saudia Competition? Saudi Arabia Wants To Launch A New Airline

Saudi Arabia wants to launch a second national airline as part of its Vision 2030 initiative. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, announced the plan on Tuesday, which is part of the country’s ambitions to diversify its economy. A new airport is also planned in Riyadh, which would serve as the new airline’s base of operations.

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Saudi Arabia is reportedly considering a second national airline. Photo: Saudia

A second national airline for Saudi Arabia

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has announced plans to launch a new airline in Saudi Arabia. The new airline will be bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s $430 billion Public Investment Fund (PIF) and will also benefit from a brand-new airport in Riyadh.

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The new airline would serve business and tourist travelers. Photo: Saudia

While details are still scarce, officials claim the new airline will boost Saudi Arabia’s international destinations to over 250 and double its cargo capacity to 4.5 million tonnes. The new carrier will reportedly focus on tourists and business travelers, while current national airline Saudia would shift to religious tourism.

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Diversifying the economy

Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030 project aims to move the country away from its reliance on oil by developing other sectors of the economy. Mohammed bin Salman is targeting an increase of non-oil revenues to around 45 billion riyals ($12 billion) by 2030.

The country is looking to establish itself as a global logistic hub by developing air, rail, sea and road networks over the next ten years. Officials aim to increase the transport and logistics sector’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) from 6% to 10% by 2030.

Saudia Competition? Saudi Arabia Wants To Launch A New Airline
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to transform the country’s economy. Photo: Getty Images

Mohammed bin Salman said,

“The comprehensive strategy aims to position Saudi Arabia as a global logistics hub connecting the three continents. This will help other sectors like tourism, Hajj and Umrah to achieve their national targets.”

One of the notable goals of Vision 2030 is to attract 100 million yearly tourists by 2030, six times the number that visited in 2019. This includes 30 million religious tourists each year, with religious travelers bringing in around $20 billion to the economy in 2018.

The country introduced tourist visas in September 2019 as it aims to establish itself as a leading global tourism destination. With an emphasis on luxury tourism, other projects in the works include a new $500 billion city called Neom.

A new airport in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia is also reportedly planning to construct a new international airport in Riyadh. The airport would serve as the base of operations for a new national airline and double the nation’s cargo capacity. According to Saudi officials, the new airport will “support the aviation sector aspirations locally and regionally.”

Saudia Competition? Saudi Arabia Wants To Launch A New Airline
King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh served over 28 million passengers annually before the pandemic. Photo: Saudia

The airport would be funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), which has an estimated value of around $430 billion. However, the project is still in its very early stages and there is no guarantee it will be realized.

Riyadh is already home to King Khalid International Airport, Saudi Arabia’s second-busiest airport behind Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport. The airport handled around 28 million travelers in 2019.

Do you think Saudi Arabia needs another national airline? What do you think of plans to shift Saudia’s focus towards religious tourism? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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