The advantages of a new airline: Riyadh Air’s plans for technology and sustainability

by | Jun 22, 2023 | Airlines, Digital Transformation, Travel Tech

The advantages of a new airline: Riyadh Air’s plans for technology and sustainability


Riyadh Air, Saudi Arabia’s second flag carrier, was first revealed in March and made its international debut at the 54th bi-annual Paris Air Show.

In line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, the transformative economic and social reform blueprint shaping the future of the Kingdom’s travel and tourism sector, Riyadh Air aims to connect the Kingdom to the rest of the world. The new airline plans to fly to more than 100 destinations and reach 100 million visitors by 2030.

Of the many striking aspects of Riyadh Air, two really stand out: its focus on technology and its commitment to sustainability.

A McKinsey study showed that the Middle East has among the highest consumer digital engagement in the world and overall digital adoption – the average of users in each industry who have interacted with it through digital or remote channels – stands at 78 per cent. This presents an opportunity for carriers like Riyadh Air who can appeal to a digitally savvy population, enabling the airline to introduce new tech with less friction. When asked whether the airline would be incorporating artificial intelligence (AI), Riyadh Air’s Chief Executive, Tony Douglas gave a definitive answer, “a very bold yes.”

The airline has pledged to be “digitally differentiated in the way we connect with our guests.” In an interview with Al Arabiya, Douglas explained how the composition of Riyadh Air opens a world of possibilities in this area:

“One thing we have which is an absolute gift is no legacy. We don’t have any old fashioned systems which have developed over a long period of time and therefore always make it difficult to change. Because of that, we’ll be using AI, we’ll be using chatbots, we’ll be integrating it to make it a digital native in the same way you and the citizens, particularly here, in one of the most digitally connected nations in the world are used to be doing just about everything else in their lifestyle.”

Sustainability has also been a key area of focus for the airline. Reuters reported Douglas as saying:

“Ultimately it will be commercial aviation sustainability that will differentiate the winners and the losers, and anyone who doesn’t take it seriously will probably fail for sure.”

In interviews, Douglas has highlighted that Riyadh Air will have one of the world’s most modern fleets with modern engines and composite airframes making the aircraft up to 25 per cent more fuel efficient than their predecessors. The CEO also assured that they will be working with a variety of technologies to reduce CO2 emissions. Although the specifics have not yet been widely shared, Douglas has already built high expectations in the field saying, “we like to think in the future, people will look at Riyadh Air as a thought leader when it comes to aviation sustainability.”

As a new airline with no legacy infrastructure within a country renowned for its digital competency, Riyadh Air is well-positioned to thrive in the areas of tech integration and sustainable practice with exciting prospects for the wider industry.

For more from Saudi Arabia see:


Article by Jess Brownlow