Riyadh Air, the new Saudi Arabian airline scheduled to commence commercial flights in 2025, is already making waves in the aviation industry, with a goal of connecting the Saudi capital Riyadh to 100 destinations by 2030.

The airline has also begun running introductory advertisements on social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram.

According to CEO Tony Douglas, the airline’s introduction is still two years away, but this is intentional as the goal is to generate excitement now. “As a start-up, we have a tremendously exciting opportunity to tell the story of what this brand stands for and what consumers can anticipate in the future.”

The other reason is to reinforce the airline’s position as a digital pioneer.

“We are primarily utilising digital channels because we have no legacy. We will portray ourselves as the world’s first airline to be completely digital.”

Riyadh Air debuted its distinctive purple livery during the Paris Air Show. Douglas characterised it as “the sort of thing you’d see on the cover of Vogue. It is magnificent and very fashionable.”

As part of a “tease and reveal” strategy, the second livery design will be unveiled later in the year. The airline intends to interact with its audience via social media, generating anticipation and intrigue as milestones are attained.

Tony Douglas stated that ‘tease and disclose’ also generates curiosity and anticipation regarding the passenger experience. “Now, undoubtedly, people are saying, ‘Wait a minute!  If you’ve accomplished something so remarkable on the outside, what have you accomplished on the inside?”

Providing more than merely incremental service enhancements

Riyadh Air has already stated that it will offer economy, premium economy, and business class accommodations, but not first class, despite the fact that it is too early to reveal specifics about the onboard product.

Anton Vidgen, vice president of Guest Experience, provided two explanations for this.  First, “the premium end of the market has grown rapidly in recent years, and the gap between business class and first class has shrunk to a negligible level.” Second, Vidgen noted that there is a substantial market for private jets in Saudi Arabia that caters to passengers who may have previously scheduled first class.

However, Riyadh Air is positioning itself as a premium airline. “We are positioning ourselves as a super-premium, best-in-class airline,” said Vidgen. “This means that our business class will be at the top of its class.”  Identical to our deluxe economy product and our economy product.”

Additionally, Vidgen stated that they will consider passenger service enhancements differently.

“We cannot view this as an incremental arms race in which we offer slightly better food and slightly more comfortable duvets.”

Instead, “I believe we have a unique opportunity to take a fresh look at and approach what guests are actually seeking.” And one of the ways we will examine this is through technology.”

According to Vidgen, Riyadh Air’s status as a startup is advantageous. “The challenge that many legacy carriers face is that their legacy technology is often siloed, which means that your airport experience can’t communicate with your lounge, can’t communicate with your on board, can’t communicate with your pre-book, and can’t communicate with your destination, resulting in a fairly disjointed experience.”

Sustainability on board and APEX Greener

Tony Douglas, in his previous capacity as CEO of Etihad, earned a reputation for being forward-thinking on sustainability issues, and he has brought this philosophy to Riyadh Air.  At an event preceding the Paris Air Show, Douglas stated, “Commercial aviation sustainability will separate the winners from the losers, and those who don’t take it seriously will likely fail.”

This will be reflected in the cabin, according to Anton Vidgen, through “waste minimisation,” which has “many distinct dimensions. How can you increase the accuracy of your inventory forecasting so that you do not need to board as many food, beverage, and amenity items?

“How can we improve our forecasting to ensure a match between those who want it and those who don’t? Second, we are exploring different ways to structure our operations so that we can examine recycling opportunities on board or some amazing new galley technology that promotes recycling.

In addition to his position at Riyadh Air, Vidgen serves as the President of the APEX Board of Directors.

In this context, he highlighted the advantages that the new APEX Greener powered by SimpliFlying database of sustainable suppliers will offer to an airline like Riyadh Air:

“This is an industry-wide initiative to encourage and promote these exceptional suppliers who take a sustainable approach to their offerings. That’s really thrilling to me because I’d like to implement it at my own airline, and I’d like other airlines to do the same.”


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