2023 Highlights: Riyadh Air Plans Laid out in Paris


Our final highlight of 2023 was when AviationSource was invited to an event in central Paris by Riyadh Air, who laid out their plans for launch.

At a special event in central Paris on Sunday night (June 18, 2023), Riyadh Air laid its cards on the table for what the future of the carrier will look like. 

Despite the CEO Tony Douglas’ speech being interrupted by a rupture of doors opening from the wind and thunderstorms, causing glasses to smash, he got across what he believes the vision of the carrier will be, as he celebrated the first stunning-looking livery of many more yet to come. 

Without further ado, let’s get into it…

Riyadh Air Narrowbody Orders Will Not Be Happening at the Paris Air Show…

Photo Credit: James Field/AviationSource

At the press event, CEO Tony Douglas confirmed that Riyadh Air will not be making its rumored narrowbody order at the Paris Air Show. 

He stated that the emphasis was more on the widebody order that was placed earlier this year, alongside carrier SAUDIA under the Public Investment Fund (PIF) scheme.

He did mention, which was interesting, that whoever Riyadh Air opt for in terms of narrowbody aircraft, that they have to be in line with both sustainability goals, but also with the timetable that is being set by the airline for launch, which is in 2025, when the first set of Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners are delivered. 

“[Riyadh Air] has to be the leader in commercial aviation sustainability”, he said at the event in Paris.  

Widebodies Are The Priority…

Paris Air Show: Riyadh Air Lays Its Cards on the Table
Photos supplied to AviationSource by Riyadh Air.

At the event, Douglas went into more detail about why widebodies are the priority, and why this will be emphasised at the Paris Air Show. 

He said that it is the airline’s deliberate intent to launch first with the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, of which they have 72 on order (39 firm and the rest being options). 

This will help the carrier achieve 100 destinations by the end of this decade.

He did confirm that in due time, single aisle narrowbody numbers would be released, as decisions around the route network need to be decided on by 1Q24. 

A big number of bilateral agreements are in the process of being agreed upon and ratified, which should allow Riyadh Air to fill the gaps across Asia and Europe, to provide better connectivity into the Kingdom before then focusing on the domestic market. 

SAUDIA Codeshare is Definitely on the Cards…

Photos supplied to AviationSource by Riyadh Air.

When questioned by AviationSource on the focus on international travel first with widebodies, Douglas had this to say on its relationship with SAUDIA:

“Interlining agreements between the two sides are inevitable”, he said to AviationSource.

This also suggests that in the meantime, and before the narrowbody orders are made, SAUDIA could well fill the gap between Jeddah and Riyadh, as well as other domestic destinations within the Kingdom. 

“[Jeddah & Riyadh] operating in unison is very important”, he added. 

Riyadh Air CEO Douglas: Passengers Should Take A Gamble on Connectivity in Saudi Arabia…

Photos supplied to AviationSource by Riyadh Air.

A key element within the PIF, and with the creation of Riyadh Air too, is about creating those stronger connectivity links within Saudi Arabia.

In the context of Douglas, the Paris Air Show is a big opportunity for him to get that message across. When asked about why passengers should take a gamble by connecting via the Kingdom, rather than the UAE or Qatar, he said:

“That’s the question that everyone asks without understanding the scale. Within Riyadh, 93% of flights are point to point, which has a higher figure than anywhere else in the world. Riyadh is underserved”. 

“We are talking about the second fastest-growing economy in the world here”. Douglas was also keen to point out that the likes of Emirates, Etihad & Qatar have smaller populations meaning smaller point-to-point figures. 


Photos supplied to AviationSource by Riyadh Air.

It remains clear that under the direction of Tony Douglas, Riyadh Air is beginning to set up the next stages of its foundations ahead of its 2025 launch.

From the upcoming product offering announcements in the first quarter of next year, to the second livery reveal coming up by year-end at the latest, all eyes will be on the carrier to see what is next. 

But for now, let’s see what else they have to present to those attending the Paris Air Show this week, and let’s see also how they take the rest of the year as well. 

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