Saudi Arabia’s fledgling airline aiming to connect Riyadh to world: COO

Saudi Arabia’s fledgling airline aiming to connect Riyadh to world: COO
Saudi Arabia’s fledgling airline aiming to connect Riyadh to world: COO

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Fledgling airline Riyadh Air will connect the Saudi capital to the world, its Chief Operating Officer Peter Bellew has said. 

Speaking on the Arab News podcast “The Mayman Show,” he noted that the state-owned carrier’s first operating flights were scheduled for the second quarter of 2025. 

The new air passenger service, backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, aims to offer more than 100 destinations by 2030, connecting domestic routes and major cities in Europe, Asia, and North America to Saudi Arabia.

Coupled with Vision 2030 and the Kingdom’s Expo 2030 world fair bid, linking Riyadh to the world seemed well-timed, Bellew added. 

He said: “I think Saudi people massively underestimate how big tourism is going to become. 

“So, it comes in every way, what we’re building here in Riyadh will be extraordinary and will bring people from all over the planet to see what has been here, much of which is manmade and invented.” 

On the early success of the establishment of the second national airline in Saudi Arabia, Bellew told the show’s host: “I think people want to partner with us. 

“I think other airlines and aviation organizations want to partner with us and that’s really been the story since we announced publicly what we’re doing since the middle of March,” he added. 

While attending the Airshow in November, he was impressed by the interest from people wanting to collaborate, leading to partnerships with aviation and software development companies globally, including Microsoft, Lufthansa Systems, EMAS, and CAE. 

Riyadh Air recently linked up with Turkish Airlines, one of the world’s biggest operators. 

Bellew said: “This will give us an ability to get our distribution for our product and to get people to Saudi Arabia and to move around within the country much quicker than maybe if we just tried to do it on our own. 

“There’s lots of things I’m sure we can learn off them as well over the next couple of years.” 

The fleet will include 39 Boeing 787-9s along with some narrow-bodied aircraft. Additional details and partnerships are expected to be unveiled over the next 12 months. 

Riyadh Air is tapping into an existing system with airlines such as Saudia and Flynas operating from the Kingdom. 

Bellew pointed out that many people overlooked the fact that traveling to Saudi Arabia was already easy, due to simple visa regulations and processes. He attributed the simplicity to the Kingdom’s historical role as being a crossroads for travelers. 

“If other airlines come as well, that’s great. The more the merrier, really, is my view on it. And the more that come here then the easier it would be for us to connect,” he added. 

Bellew highlighted Riyadh Air’s contribution to the growth of the aviation industry and the overall ecosystem in the country. The company was not only attracting a significant amount of local talent but also directing attention toward educational institutions. 

He said: “The hunger for knowledge among young Saudi people and older Saudi people is extraordinary. People want to learn. People want to advance themselves. So, you’re throwing seed out on very fertile soil here.” 

Bellew noted that Riyadh Air aimed to reshape the entire travel experience by introducing advanced sustainability practices, digital experiences, and unprecedented comfort innovations. 

“A lot of people now find travel a bit of a hassle. We want to make it incredibly seamless that both your phone and even your face will become your ticket, that you won’t have to have as much interaction if you don’t want to, and that literally your whole journey will be completely digital,” he added. 

He said the airline’s focal point would be its passengers, adapting to changing customer expectations and preferences. 

“When you get onboard the aircraft, you would say, hey, this is really cool, I’m really happy, I’m enjoying this. You’ll have your connectivity, you’ll have your entertainment, you’ll have great food, you’ll have wonderful people,” Bellew added. 

The COO promised “an incredibly beautiful Saudi welcome for people and our guests onboard,” and suggested the brand should mirror Riyadh, with the hospitality pillar aligning perfectly. 

Away from work, Bellew was enjoying his time in Saudi Arabia. 

“You learn, you see, you experience, people tell you about a different place. You investigate, you learn, you end up going in rabbit holes of things and then somebody introduces you to the next person. And it’s intriguing,” he said. 


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