Saudi Arabia has announced plans to launch a new luxury airline, Riyadh Air, by 2025, with planes bathed in blue and lavender, to end the dominance of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar over the luxury aviation sector in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

According to Bloomberg, Saudi Arabia’s flag carrier, Saudia Airlines, will maintain its focus on Hajj and Umrah flights, among other sectors.

However, the plan for Riyadh Air is to reach 100 destinations by 2030, connecting passengers through the new King Salman International Airport, in Riyadh.

The airport is designed to handle 120 million passengers a year by the end of the decade, which is 30 percent more than Dubai’s current capacity, Bloomberg reported.

So far, the company declines to say whether alcohol will be served on its planes. But the statement noted that it will operate within Saudi law.

The carrier has ordered 39 Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner jets with options for dozens more, and it’s in the market for as many as 400 narrowbodies, the New York-based news agency confirmed.

“Saudi Arabia’s growing population has a need for world-class connectivity,” says Tony Douglas, the company’s chief executive officer.

Douglas is an aviation veteran who until recently ran rival Etihad Airways. “Given the size of the kingdom in terms of land mass, having more than one national carrier is essential.”

As the focus changes from pilgrims to leisure travelers, Saudi Arabia is planning to add a low-cost carrier flying from Dammam, the center of the country’s oil industry. As well as another new full-service airline based in Neom, the futuristic city under construction on the Red Sea coast, Bloomberg reported.

The aviation push “directly supports the industries that are essential to the kingdom’s Vision 2030 agenda, including tourism,” says Mohammed al-Khuraisi, vice president for strategy at the kingdom’s General Authority of Civil Aviation.

Emirates and Turkish Airlines are stocking up on widebody jets for the next phase of growth, crowding an already tough market, Bloomberg highlighted. Riyadh Air will struggle to get takeoff and landing slots at big airports abroad.

Emirates already pumps a half-dozen A380 superjumbos into London’s Heathrow Airport every day, where slots are scarce.


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