How a new airline may be the beginning of a moral revolution in Saudi Arabia. “The pace of change is huge”

  • 29.03.2023 19:15
  • Bruno Arcos

When Riyadh Air starts its operation in 2025, it may be the very first Saudi airline to allow alcohol consumption on board, announced the company’s president, Tony Douglas. The new airline is expected to rival the likes of Emirates or Qatar Airways in just a few years.

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The airline has been tight-lipped about its plans, although each new revelation certainly turns out to be more impressive than the former. So far, the local authorities have disclosed the name of the carrier, plans for the expansion of the capital’s airport and an impressive order of 39 Boeing 787-9s with an option for 33 more Dreamliners. Now, the president of the airline, Tony Douglas, revealed that some changes of a moral nature will also be possible on board.

While alcohol consumption is strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia, Douglas believes that the changes taking place in the country in recent years have been happening at a rapid pace, and that by 2025, passengers may be able to enjoy alcohol on board Riyadh Air. He also stated that the airline would fully comply with local regulations. If Riyadh Air were to allow alcohol on board, it is expected that passengers on Saudi Arabia’s national carrier, Saudia Airlines, would also be able to consume it, even after crossing into the Saudi airspace.

Industry experts Paddle Your Own Kanoo predict that Riyadh Air is likely to follow in the footsteps of other carriers from the Persian Gulf, like Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad, who have taken a more casual approach to Islamic customs, such as serving food and drinks during Ramadan and allowing alcohol consumption on board. Such comparisons might suggest the new carrier will be competing with the aforementioned airlines for transfer passengers. However, Douglas insists that Riyadh Air’s primary focus will be on passengers specifically traveling to Saudi Arabia, a country that invested tens of billions of dollars in the development of tourist infrastructure and is opening up more and more to travelers.

Yet, despite the president’s statement, plans for a huge transfer hub at Riyadh airport suggest otherwise.

Douglas also revealed during an interview with Sky News that the carrier will be announcing further orders for new planes soon, including several dozen narrow-body aircraft, likely to be Boeing 737 MAX, and more wide-body aircraft, most likely Airbus A350.

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