A beautiful lady with a Riyadh airplane in her hands generating from her hands

18 things you must know about Riyadh Air (Flight Attendants edition)

Riyadh Air is gearing up to become Saudi Arabia’s second flagship airline, headquartered in its capital city, Riyadh and these are the 18 things you must know about Riyadh Air.

1. Riyad Air: The new born kid in the Saudi Arabia Aviation Industry

Riyad air is getting ready to take off from its main hub at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, with big plans to be the Middle East’s top earner. 

The airline aims to connect people through over 100 destinations across the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, North America, and Oceania, using a fleet of Boeing 787 aircraft.

Riyadh Air isn’t just aiming to be an airline; it’s shooting for the stars to become a ‘world-class airline.’ The grand plan includes adding a whopping $20 billion to the non-oil GDP growth and creating more than 200,000 jobs, both direct and indirect. 

Big dreams, big skies for Riyadh Air!

2. Riyad Air milestones dates until today

March 12, 2023

Riyadh Air is born

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, made it official – Riyadh Air was born, set to be the country’s fresh national airline.

March 12, 2023
March 14, 2023

39 Boeing planes

Just two days later from Prince Mohammed bin Salman announcement, Riyadh Air ordered a whopping 39 Boeing 787-9 planes, with an option for 33 more.

March 14, 2023
June 4, 2023

Riyadh Air RX

Riyadh Air proudly revealed its first-ever look on its brand new Boeing 787-9. The same day, they got their special code “RX” from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) at the World Air Transport Summit in Istanbul.

June 4, 2023
June 12, 2023

First delivery

This day marked a milestone as Boeing delivered the first plane to Riyadh Air, and the first liveried was unveiled during a ceremony at the King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh.

June 12, 2023
June 14, 2023

Green light from GCAA

Riyadh Air got the green light for commercial flights with the Passenger Air Transport Economic License from the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA).

June 14, 2023
June 21, 2023

Engines for the future

At the Paris Air Show, Riyadh Air sealed the deal, signing up for 90 GE Aerospace’s GEnx-1B engines to power up their future fleet of 39 Boeing 787-9 aircraft. Talk about gearing up for the skies!

June 21, 2023
August 12, 2023

Atlético de Madrid

Riyadh Air stepped into the world of football, becoming the main shirt sponsor for Spain’s La Liga team, Atlético de Madrid. 

August 12, 2023

3. Riyadh Air fleet

Model of a Riyadh Air airplane that symbolize the fleet

The fleet of Riyadh Air will be made by 39 Boeing 787-9 aircrafts, with the plan to increase the total fleet with 33 more, to a total of 72 brand new 787-9 in the next foreseeable future.

The Boeing 787-9 is like a longer and stronger version of the 787-8, keeping the same wingspan. It’s got a 20 feet longer body, can carry more weight when taking off, and can travel farther – up to 7,635 nautical miles.

Here’s the lowdown for the aviation nerds like us:

Length 206 feet (63 meters)
Maximum Take-Off Weight54,500 pounds (24,700 kg)
Passenger Capacity259 passengers (typical three-class setup)
Range7,635 nautical miles (8,786 mi; 14,140 km)

The 787-9 is like a superhero in the sky, designed to take over from planes like the Boeing 767-300ER and Airbus A330-300. It’s in a competition with the Airbus A330-900.

Some Fun Facts:
  • The 787-9 made its first-ever flight on September 17, 2013.
  • Air New Zealand introduced it on August 9, 2014.
  • Commercial services started with All Nippon Airways on August 7, 2014.
  • As of January 2023, 63% of all 787 orders are for the 787-9, with 580 deliveries.
Long-Haul Adventures:
  • Qantas did a non-stop flight from Australia to the UK in 17 hours on March 25, 2018.
  • Another Qantas flight tested from New York to Sydney on October 20, 2019.
  • Air Tahiti Nui set the record for the longest commercial flight on March 16, 2020. It was a Boeing 787-9 flight from Papeete (French Polynesia) to Paris. The flight covered a distance of 15,715 kilometers (9,765 miles; 8,485 nautical miles). The flight time was 16 hours and 26 minutes. This was considered a domestic flight because French Polynesia is a part of the French Republic. So, dear flight attendants, expect long flights, but hopefully not many 17 hours duty days!
Special Look:
  • There’s a special “Dreams Take Flight” livery with a pink-to-purple design. Only one plane has this special look, meant for Hong Kong Airlines.

Travelers have a more enjoyable time on this plane because:

  • It has the biggest windows of any commercial aircraft
  • The air is less dry and is pressurized at a lower level inside the cabin, making it more comfortable.
  • There are bigger overhead bins
  • Calming LED lights
  • Technology that can detect and reduce turbulence, ensuring a smoother flight.

In a nutshell, the 787-9 is a cool, long-distance flier making its mark in the aviation world!

4. How many flight attendants will operate on a 787-9 aircraft?

Usually a 787-9 aircraft operates with 10 cabin crew onboard. 2 in Fist Class, 4 in Business Class and 4 in Economy Class.

This ration or number may also variate due to the policies and the level of service that Riyadh Air want to guarantee onboard its aircrafts. My own take is that the number of crew could be higher than the 10 flight attendants mentioned, but let´s say 10 to be conservative.

These airplanes carry 259 passengers, and the minimum ratio between crew and passengers is 1 to 50. So these airplanes could operate with a minimum number of 6 cabin crew (plus, of course, the pilots).

But we are confident on the fact that Riyadh wants to be seen as the best in the business, and the customer satisfaction pass through the level of care that they receive onboard.

Therefore we would be surprise to see less than 10 flight attendants operating on these airplanes on each flight.

5. Global Outreach: What is the goal of Riyadh Air?

a gloge interconnected with different future routes of Riyadh Air

By 2030, Riyadh Air aims to connect over 100 destinations worldwide, fostering a bridge between the Kingdom and major cities across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

This move will add a whopping $20 billion to the non-oil GDP growth and creating more than 200,000 jobs, both direct and indirect.

Collectively, Saudi Arabian airlines have expressed their intention to acquire a potential total of 121 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. This is the fifth-largest commercial order by value in Boeing’s history.

This substantial commitment aligns with the country’s ambitious objective of: 

  • accommodating 330 million passengers by the year 20230.
  • drawing 100 million visitors annually by the year 2030.

6. Who is the owner of Riyadh Air?

Two people shaking hands to rapresent the ownership of Riyadh Air

Riyadh Air will be in the hands of the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, PIF’s governor, is set to lead the way as chairman.

Mr Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan is the governor of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) in Saudi Arabia. He is also the chairman of Newcastle United Football Club, and chairman of the state-owned petroleum company Saudi Aramco.

From 2014 to 2015 he was on the board of directors of the Saudi Stock Exchange. Note that  Riyad is the financial capital of all Saudi Arabia.

Mr Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan and the PIF will bring a combination of financial strength and managerial expertise to the table.

What is the PIF?

The PIF is known to be a sovereign wealth fund with substantial financial resources. This could potentially provide the new airline with a strong financial foundation.

Having experience in chairing Saudi Aramco, one of the world’s largest and most profitable oil companies, suggests a background in managing large-scale, complex operations, which could be advantageous in the aviation industry.

Without going too much into the detail of the successful investment career of Mr. Yasir Al-Rumayyan, it´s clear that his management will bring a combination of financial strength and managerial expertise to the table.

However, the success of a new airline would also depend on various factors, including:

  •  effective management
  • strategic planning
  • industry knowledge
  • the ability to navigate challenges specific to the aviation sector.

That´s why Riyad air brought onboard Mr. Tony Douglas, the CEO of Riyadh Air.

7. Who is Tony Douglas, the CEO of Riyadh Air?

In September 2022 Mr Tony Douglas, a British businessman, has been named CEO at Riyadh Air. Prior to this role, he served as the CEO of Etihad Airways from January 2018 to October 2022. 

Douglas has an extensive professional background, having previously acted as:

  • chief executive of Abu Dhabi Airports Company from 2013 to 2015
  • the chief executive of the Defence Equipment and Support department in the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence from 2015 to 2017.
  • He has also held significant roles at airport operator BAA and served as the Chief Operating Officer of Laing O’Rourke.

Mr. Tony Douglas in Etihad Airways

During his tenure at Etihad Airways starting in 2018, Tony Douglas was tasked with a crucial focus on minimizing the airline’s losses. 

Since assuming the role of CEO, he successfully curtailed losses by implementing strategic measures that led to a substantial reduction in total costs. He managed to reduce the costs down by $416 million to $6.9 billion. 

Notably, amidst these cost-cutting efforts, he also achieved a remarkable improvement in customer satisfaction. From the end of 2019 to today, Etihad passed from a SKYTRAX Ranking of 29 to 12, as evidenced by the graph below.

Graph that shows the ranking of SkyTrax of Etihad Airlines

This performance underscores the effectiveness of Mr. Douglas’s leadership. It is evident that Riyadh Air is in capable hands. And with his wealth of experience and managerial expertise positions, the company is well set to attain its ambitious goals.

8. When Riyadh Air will start operation?

Two Airplanes going in opposite directions and a paper with two wheels symbolizing the start of operations of Riyadh Air

As of now, the sole declaration regarding the initiation of Riyadh Air’s operations comes exclusively from CEO Tony Douglas. This revelation surfaced during an insightful interview with China Daily in September 2023.

During this visit to China to engage with the country’s civil aviation authority and various Chinese carriers, Tony Douglas stated that Riyadh Air is set to commence operations in 2025.

The airline plans to gradually introduce direct flights connecting Riyadh to various destinations, including key Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and others.

Douglas mentioned that in the past 30 years, Riyadh Air represents the largest aviation startup. He also added that, within its initial five years, the goal is to establish connections with 110 destinations worldwide.

9. Cultural Ambassadors

Beyond transporting passengers, Riyadh Air is a cultural emissary, showcasing the richness of Saudi Arabia’s cultural and natural treasures to the world.

Riyadh Air’s ambitious plan to become a cultural ambassador not only signifies its intention to boost the tourism sector. But it  also aligns with Saudi Arabia’s broader economic goals.

The aim to contribute $20 billion to the non-oil GDP growth and generate over 200,000 jobs indicates a strategic shift towards:

  • diversifying the economy
  • reducing dependence on oil revenues
  • fostering a more sustainable and resilient economic model

The increasing openness of Saudi Arabia to the world, as reflected in Riyadh Air’s cultural ambassador role, is a significant departure from historical norms. This move aligns with broader initiatives, such as Vision 2030. This initiative seeks to modernize and open up the Saudi economy.

Tourism, as a sector, plays a pivotal role in fostering cultural exchange and breaking down stereotypes, making it a powerful tool for diplomacy.

10. Riyadh Air biggest competitors: Emirates, Qatar, Etihad

Two chess pieces that symbolize the competition between Riyadh Air and other airlines like Emirates, Etihad and Qatar

In comparing Riyadh Air’s aspirations to the UAE, particularly Dubai and Emirates Airline, it’s evident that both nations are leveraging their aviation industries to enhance their global standing.

Dubai, through Emirates, has successfully positioned itself as a major hub for international travel and trade.

Riyadh Air’s pursuit of becoming the first airline in revenue in the Middle East mirrors the competitive spirit seen between regional carriers.

Emirates Airline has been a key player in transforming Dubai into a global business and tourism hub.

Riyadh Air inspiration…

seems to be drawing inspiration from this success story, aiming to replicate the economic impact and international connectivity that Emirates brought to Dubai.

The fact that Riyadh Air intends to employ more than 100 nationalities reflects a similar strategy employed by Emirates. This strategy will contribute to a diverse and cosmopolitan workforce that caters to a global customer base.

The ownership structure is noteworthy. Riyadh Air being owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF). PIF’s governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, taking the lead as chairman underscores the government’s active involvement in shaping the airline’s strategy.

This alignment with a national investment fund signals a coordinated effort to use aviation as a driver for economic growth and cultural exchange.

Are Riyadh Air and Emirates already in competition?

The success of Emirates in transforming Dubai serves as a blueprint for Riyadh Air’s ambitions, emphasizing the potential economic and cultural impact that a well-developed airline can have on a nation’s global standing.

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Tony Douglas, former CEO of Etihad, clarified that Riyadh Air’s focus wouldn’t be direct competition with Qatar Airways, Emirates or Etihad. Instead, it aims to concentrate on transporting passengers to and from Saudi Arabia, a country actively attracting tourists and investors.

The difference between Qatar Airways and Riyadh Air

Douglas emphasized that Qatar Airways, with its extensive international network, primarily handles a significant portion of transfer traffic rather than point-to-point travel. He pointed out that “A very substantial percentage of that traffic is transfer. Very little of it proportionally is point-to-point”, highlighting Riyadh Air’s strategic decision to cater specifically to the growing demand for direct travel to and from Saudi Arabia. 

There are questions about the need for another carrier alongside Saudia and Flynas, both existing airlines in the kingdom. However Mr. Douglas expressed confidence in Riyadh Air’s prospects. Especially considering the increasing demand for enhanced global connectivity from Saudi Arabia’s citizens and the anticipated influx of tourists and visitors to the kingdom.

11. Sustainability & Aviation

Close up of a gree leaf in the background and an airplane crossing it suggesting the sustainability of Riyadh Air

Riyadh Air takes responsibility for its environmental impact, with a strong commitment to sustainability.

First, the adoption of the Boings 787-9  offers unparalleled fuel efficiency. The fuel consumption and emissions decreases by 25% in comparison to the aircraft they replace.

As part of Riyadh Air’s commitment to sustainability, the airline has taken a step further! A partnership with the luxury electric car manufacturer Lucid Motors.

This collaboration was formalized through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding at the Dubai Airshow. In this Memorandum both entities expressed their shared vision for sustainable transportation.

Riyadh Air & Lucid Motors partnership

The partnership aims to explore various avenues, including:

  • co-marketing
  • commercial ventures
  • operational initiatives

catering to targeted guests and travelers. To symbolize this collaboration, two Lucid Air vehicles were adorned in Riyadh Air livery. The symbolic gesture underscores the joint commitment to sustainable practices of both companies.

Additionally, three other Lucid Air cars were employed to transport visitors to and from the Dubai Airshow.

12. Riyadh Air and Atlético Madrid

An Atlético Madrid fan cheering for his team with the face painted with the colors of the club yellow and red.

Atlético de Madrid is one of Europe’s premier football clubs. The Club is embarking on a multi-year partnership with Riyadh Air, designating the airline as the main sponsor of the club. This collaboration, highlighted by Riyadh Air’s logo on the men’s first team kits, unites two entities sharing a commitment to excellence and innovation. The aim: reaching a global fanbase.

Riyadh Air, scheduled to commence operations in 2025, envisions connecting Saudi Arabia to over 100 destinations by 2030, offering a blend of technological innovations and warm Saudi hospitality.

This significant sports sponsorship marks Riyadh Air’s inaugural venture since its launch on March 12, 2023. The partnership not only seeks to enhance fan experiences but also aspires to establish a new benchmark for collaboration and innovation in football.

The Ronaldo move…

It seems that this initiative is part of a broader strategy to boost tourism in Riyadh, aligning with the growing attention the city has been receiving. Another noteworthy development contributing to this effort is the signing of Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo by the Saudi Arabian football club Al Nassr.

This move, widely recognized in the Middle East, seems to underscore efforts to draw attention to Saudi Arabia and increase media focus on the country.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s decision to join Al Nassr, based in Riyadh, and playing in the top-tier Saudi Professional League (SPL), is a landmark move for Middle Eastern football.

Ronaldo, 37, has committed to a deal with Al Nassr until June 2025. Notable foreign players in the Al Nassr squad include Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina, renowned for his stints with Arsenal and Napoli, as well as former Brazil international and midfielder Luiz Gustavo.

13. Cabin Crew Excellence

As Riyadh Air prepares to take flight on the aviation horizon in 2025, the level of anticipation and interest in the airline’s journey has been nothing short of remarkable. A testament to this excitement is the staggering number of 467,589 total interests registered on the Riyadh Air careers site, as of July 14.

This remarkable figure signifies more than just numbers. It mirrors the collective eagerness and curiosity of individuals who envision being part of Riyadh Air’s pioneering venture. With only a limited number of 11 aircraft set to take to the skies initially, the overwhelming interest speaks volumes about the impact Riyadh Air is making even before its inaugural flight.

This early surge of interest not only underscores the high expectations the airline has set. But it also serves as a promising prelude to Riyadh Air’s future success. It reflects a keen interest from aspiring flight attendants who are eager to embark on this exciting journey with Riyadh Air. Flight attendants that want to be part of a team that aims to redefine air travel experiences.

Ok, but what this means for us, aspiring Riyadh flight attendants (yes, we applied too)?

Amidst this robust interest, remember that each application represents an individual with unique talents, aspirations, and potential.

The road to becoming part of Riyadh Air’s exceptional team may be challenging, but it’s essential to persevere.

Your dream of contributing to a digital-native force in the aviation industry is worth the effort. Take inspiration from the overwhelming interest as a testament to the excitement Riyadh Air has generated.

Even in the face of strong competition, your hope and determination stand as your wings to navigate this sky of opportunities. Keep reaching for the clouds! For within this competitive landscape, there lies the promise of a fulfilling and extraordinary career as part of Riyadh Air’s cabin crew.

And hopefully, one day, we will meet in a briefing room in Riyadh!;)

14. Digital Pioneers

Riyadh Air isn’t just an airline; it’s a digital-native airline. Riyadh Air is committed to revolutionizing every aspect of a passenger journey by seamlessly integrating cutting-edge technology for an unparalleled travel experience.

To achieve this vision, Riyadh Air has entered into a strategic partnership with IBM.

Together, these two entities are leveraging their strengths to elevate Riyadh Air’s digital capabilities and deliver a travel experience that goes beyond the ordinary.

IBM Consulting will lead the integration of technology solutions, including security, infrastructure, and data platforms. They will use a hybrid cloud approach. The collaboration aims to position Riyadh Air as a leader in digital innovation within the aviation industry. The goal is to offer a personalized and efficient guest experiences powered by AI and advanced digital technology.

IBM will also oversee the work of various partners and establish a hybrid cloud integration platform for Riyadh Air.

This initiative aligns with Riyadh Air’s goal to become a world-class airline, supporting Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 to transform into a global aviation and trade hub.

15. Riyad Air will be serving alcohol on its flights?

Bartender making an alocoholinc cocktail

For certain flight attendants, due to moral or religious considerations, there might be a personal requirement not to serve alcohol during flights.

Tony Douglas did not specifically comment on the matter of alcoholic drinks. Officials maintain that Saudi Arabia has the potential to attract tourists despite the country’s religious conservatism and the existing strict ban on alcohol.

There has been some speculation regarding the possibility of allowing beverages in designated tourist areas and Saudi’s emerging business district. But at the moment there are no concrete plans in this direction.

16. Lavender Dreams

Inspired by the lavender blossoms adorning Saudi Arabia, Riyadh Air’s brand identity is a poetic blend of elegance, nature, and Arabic calligraphy.

17. Livery Elegance

The airline’s modern and fresh livery design features a soothing lavender and white color scheme, a stylized bird logo, and a distinctive tail fin.

18. ANOTHER LEVEL OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

From the words of Tony Douglas: “The new airline reflects the ambitious vision of Saudi Arabia to be at the core of shaping the future of global air travel and be a true disrupter in terms of customer experience”. 

So we are confident that Riyadh Air wants to redefine premium travel, offering spacious cabins, luxurious seats, state-of-the-art entertainment, and a gourmet culinary experience. 

As we can read from Riyadh Air official website, Douglas describe Riyadh air as a 

"digitally native airline, driven by a pioneering spirit with an obsessive focus on attention to detail and innovation at its heart!"

Conclusions

If you’ve found this glimpse into Riyadh Air’s offerings intriguing, we invite you to delve even deeper into the world of aviation. 

To know more about the aviation world and what are our favorite airlines in 2024, make sure to check our article: 20 best airlines to work for as a flight attendant in 2024. Discover the airlines that offer the best benefits, destinations and working conditions. All our valuations are based on the experience of former and current flight attendants working in these airlines.

Happy reading, and may your journey be as exciting as the destinations Riyadh Air is set to explore!

Sources:

Jump to ···· ✈