Riyadh Air to make narrowbody jets order ‘in a number of weeks’ – CEO

By Pesha Magid

DUBAI (Reuters) -The CEO of Saudi Arabia’s newest airline Riyadh Air said on Monday it would announce a very large order for narrow-body aircraft “in a number of weeks’ time” after reviewing bids by Airbus and Boeing.

The airline, owned by the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, said last week it had concluded its narrowbody campaign and was expected to announce the order soon, although no specific timeframe has so far been given.

“(The) process has concluded,” Tony Douglas told Reuters at the Dubai Airshow on Monday. “In a number of weeks’ time, we will reveal a sizable order of narrow-body aircraft.”

Douglas, the former CEO of Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, declined to say how many aircraft Riyadh Air would order, or when. The company has already provisionally ordered 72 Boeing 787 widebody jets.

The airline joins a crowded and competitive market in the Gulf, with established carriers like Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad all jostling for space.

Douglas said it would not clash with other Gulf carriers as the majority of their business comes from transfer traffic, whereas most of Riyadh Air’s will come from point to point flights to and from Saudi Arabia.

“One national carrier simply doesn’t have the capacity to provide anything like the demand that’s out there,” he said.

Saudi Arabia’s existing airlines include state-owned Saudia, its low-cost unit flyadeal, and flynas.

Riyadh Air plans to enter the debt market next year. “That will probably be a combination of traditional debt and sustainable securities,” he added.

The airline has hired 150 staff, including 20 pilots, Chief Operating Officer Peter Bellew also told Reuters on Monday, adding it aimed to operate about 170 aircraft by 2030.

(Reporting by Pesha Magid,; Editing by Louise Heavens, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Jan Harvey)