According to a media source, in 2026, China will begin to receive direct flights from Saudi Arabia’s newest airline, Riyadh Air.
According to a China Daily article, the airline, which will begin operations in 2025, will gradually introduce direct flights linking Riyadh to important Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and other places.
“In the last 30 years, we are the biggest aviation startup. Within our first five years of operation, as the new national airline of Saudi Arabia, we aim to connect 110 destinations worldwide,” Tony Douglas, CEO of Riyadh Air, told the publication.
In September 2023, Douglas travelled to China to meet with the country’s civil aviation authority and various Chinese carriers.
Douglas, who has more than 40 years of experience in the aviation, transportation and logistics industries, was quick to point out the fact that Riyadh lacked direct connections with Chinese cities, thus making it necessary for the Kingdom’s aviation industry to rapidly expand such connections.
“Business link between China and Saudi Arabia is much desired. Due to people’s interest in Saudi Arabia, we have also observed a high demand for leisure travel,” Douglas continued further.
The airline, which is owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, has placed orders for 72 Boeing B787 widebody aircraft and intends to increase the number of single-aisle orders as well.
In the first six months following its establishment, Riyadh Air received over 600,000 resumes from prospective employees around the world.
“China is well represented among the 142 countries included in the resumes. Our teams will need Chinese workers,” the CEO said.
Improving Ties Between Saudi & China
Relations between Saudi Arabia and China have entered a green territory in recent years, with Beijing emerging as a top trading partner of Riyadh, the Middle East and North Africa.
The bilateral trade between the two countries hit USD 116.04 billion in 2022, up 33% year-on-year. In the first quarter of 2023, bilateral trade surpassed USD 27 billion, up 9.7% compared with the same period in 2021, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Strengthening the ties further, the Kingdom’s national flag carrier Saudia Airlines launched direct flights between Jeddah and Beijing in August 2023. The flights connecting the two cities operate four times a week.
As per the ‘Saudi Vision 2030’, the Saudi Tourism Authority expects direct flights between Jeddah and Beijing to facilitate the Kingdom in welcoming over 4 million Chinese visitors by 2030.
Riyadh Air said that with two different cities in Saudi Arabia as their hubs, the two airlines will complement each other in-flight services.
The International Air Transport Association said the post-COVID recovery momentum continued in July 2023 for passenger markets. Middle Eastern airlines posted a 22.6% increase in the July traffic compared to a year ago. Its capacity rose 22.1% and load factor climbed 0.3% point to 82.6%, the IATA data stated.
Riyadh Air, meanwhile, is getting ready to educate female engineers to work on maintenance teams for aircraft to increase the representation of women in the aviation business.
The Colleges of Excellence (CoE), a leader in technical and vocational training in aviation maintenance engineering for men and women, and the upcoming Saudi national airline have inked a partnership agreement.
Tony Douglas and Ayman Mustafa Al-Abdullah, the CEO of CoE, both signed the contract.
This collaboration emphasizes the initiatives taken by the two groups to encourage women’s involvement in the aviation sector.
As part of ‘Saudi Vision 2030’, it will offer mentoring and on-the-job training to women, assisting in their empowerment.
Throughout the program, trainees will learn about cutting-edge technologies and aviation maintenance.
The first Saudi national airline to allow Saudi women to join the flight crew team was Flynas.
The first airline in the kingdom to have an all-female crew, from pilot to cabin attendant, on a trip from Riyadh to Jeddah was Flyadeal, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabian Airlines, in May 2022.