Saudi Arabia has launched a new carrier, Riyadh Air, wholly owned by the Public Investment Fund which is the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund.

The airline will operate with Riyadh as its hub and is expected to add US$20 billion to the country’s non-oil GDP growth, and create more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to a report by the State-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Riyadh Air will be chaired by Yasir Al Rumayyan, governor of PIF, while former Etihad CEO Tony Douglas has been appointed the CEO of the new carrier.

The announcement of Riyadh Air was made on Sunday by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, who is also the Prime Minister of the country and Chairman of PIF.

Riyadh Air will reportedly aim to connect to over 100 destinations globally by 2030. Details about which routes it will initially connect weren’t revealed, but the SPA report added that “the new national carrier will leverage Saudi Arabia’s strategic geographic location between the three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe.”

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The kingdom which is on an extensive economic diversification programme aims to increase its overall international air connectivity from approximately 140 cities to over 250 cities by 2030. The number of visits to the kingdom reached more than 93 million in 2022. The tourism sector aims to reach 100 million visits annually by 2030.

In November last year, plans were also unveiled for a new airport in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The new King Salman International Airport is expected to become one of the world’s largest airports covering an area of approximately 57 sq km, allowing for six parallel runways. The airport aims to accommodate up to 120 million travellers by 2030. That figure is expected to rise to 185 million passengers and a capacity to process 3.5 million tons of cargo by 2050.