Riyadh Air will finalise a narrowbody aircraft order shortly, supplementing the Boeing 787s the Saudi Arabian start-up committed to earlier this year.

The Saudi government in March formally launched Riyadh Air, which is charged with the mission of connecting the Saudi capital with at least 100 destinations by 2030.

TonyDouglas-Riyadh Air-003

Source: Billypix

Douglas says airline needs a narrowbody fleet because of size of Riyadh market

Riyadh Air has already committed to up to 72 Boeing 787s for its long-haul requirements and speaking to FlightGlobal during the IATA AGM in Istanbul, the airline’s chief executive Tony Douglas confirms a narrowbody order will follow shortly.

”In the not too distant future, subject to us closing it out to our satisfaction, there will be a narrowbody order,” he says. He would not be drawn on details of the order, noting it has already been “eagerly speculated”. 

Bloomberg last month reported Boeing was in talks over a deal for 150 737 Max jets, potentially in time for the Paris air show. Riyadh Air will have a Boeing 787 featuring its livery, unveiled yesterday, on the static display at Le Bourget.

Douglas says narrowbody aircraft are needed because of the scale of the Saudi market and opportunity to develop connectivity to Riyadh in particular.

”It is the biggest population in the kingdom, the biggest city in the Arabian peninsular,” he says. “But if you look at Riyadh today, you’ll see that it is completely under-served, it is one of the least-well-connected capital cities at the moment, and therein lies a great opportunity for us.

“This is like connecting half the size of western Europe, so you need a narrowbody fleet because the population is so big as well.”

Riyadh Air is targeting a launch in 2025 and Douglas says securing aircraft on time is key for the launch, noting that as a start-up “you don’t inherit a fleet”.

”One of the reasons we have such a larger number [of 787 deliveries], relatively speaking, in year one, is just to put your first route on you need three aircraft,” Douglas says. “It’s not three times on every route, but to get your first one on your need a multiple of three to get a rotation going both ways and a stand-by machine if anything goes tech. Obviously it scales up on that.

”So in 2025 we’ll go into double-digit number of aircraft and that is why we are so vested with Boeing into working with them, making sure they fulfill their obligations and deliver on time. We need them, because unlike a legacy carrier I can’t say I’m going to extend some leases and keep aircraft around a bit longer or slow down my network expansion because I don’t have a network or any leases.”