First Flight Won’t Takeoff Until Early 2025


The chief executive of upstart Saudi airline Riyadh Air has confirmed that the carrier won’t launch until 2025 once it has taken delivery of the first of as many as 72 Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

In an interview with the AFP news agency, Tony Douglas said the airline would use the next two years to finalise its plans and that the current timetable was for an early 2025 launch.

This is the first time that the airline has formally confirmed its planned launch date, although the timeline shouldn’t come as too much surprise. Last week, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund announced its multi-billion-dollar order for Boeing 787 Dreamliners and deliveries are only meant to begin in 2025.

At the time, Boeing boasted that Riyadh Air would launch with its brand of aircraft, so unless the carrier had secret plans to acquire used or nearly new aircraft, a 2025 launch always looked to be the most likely scenario.

A gap of around 24 months before the first commercial service of a Riyadh Air flight hasn’t, however, stopped the airline from starting to recruit key employees, as well as pilots and flight attendants.

Douglas told the AFP that more than 73,000 people have already submitted job applications via the airline’s newly created recruitment portal. The airline is expected to drive Saudi Arabia’s non-oil economy, adding $20 billion to the Kingdom’s economy and creating as many as 200,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Riyadh Air is being bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in an attempt to diversify the country’s economy and take on regional rivals like Emirates and Qatar Airways who have already made similar ambitious plans a reality.

The creation of the airline was formally unveiled by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz who is spearheading Saudi Arabia’s liberalisation.

As well as embracing digital technology, Riyadh Air is also expected to embrace typically Western values, including a more liberal dress code and the service of inflight alcohol.