Anew Saudi Arabian airline which is aiming to rival the likes of Emirates and Qatar Airways is planning to start operations before the end of 2022 according to new reports.
The airline, which is currently going by the name RIA, is set to initially launch by operating regional services according to sources quoted by Arabian Business who claim to have knowledge of the matter.
No timeline has been announced by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign investment fund which is said to be bankrolling the new carrier with an initial budget of more than $30 billion amidst reports that it is nearing completion of a multi-billion-dollar aircraft order.
RIA will be based in Riyadh and will eventually target international transfer passengers travelling east to west and vice versa in much the same way that regional rivals like Emirates have built their business models on.
The airline is part of a big push from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to modernise the country and diversify its economy.
Unlike the existing flag carrier, Saudia, the new airline will serve alcohol and won’t have a strict dress code that previously banned men from wearing shorts. Saudia will continue to exist, however, and will be based out of Jeddah serving mainly Umrah pilgrimage passengers.
Last month, sources claimed RIA was looking to buy up to 80 new aircraft from both European aircraft manufacturer Airbus and the US aerospace giant Boeing.
RIA was said to be eyeing up the long-haul Airbus A350, as well as single-aisle A320 series aircraft. From Boeing the airline was considering the 737MAX and the 787 Dreamliner. The order could, however, be split with Saudia.
If the rumours are true, Tony Douglas the ex-chief executive of Etihad Airways has been poached by RIA, although no formal announcement has yet been made.