Saudi Arabia is positioning itself as an emerging leader in the air transport sector

Saudi Arabia, traditionally known for its abundant oil resources, is transforming itself at remarkable speed. Recently, the country has emerged in the eyes of the world as a major new player in global air transport. Thanks to strategic investments and an ambitious vision, the kingdom is once again demonstrating the benefits of its Vision 2030.

Saudia Airlines' Boeing 777 aircraft

A strategic vision that drives change

The Vision 2030 initiative, launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is at the heart of the country's transformation. This plan aims to diversify the Saudi economy and reduce its dependence on oil, by placing the kingdom's technological sovereignty at the heart of its strategy. With this in mind, the development of the air transport sector has been one of the priorities. In the same vein, improving transport infrastructure and increasing airport capacity are among the key objectives of Vision 2030.

To achieve this vision, Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in modernizing and expanding its airport infrastructure. The recently renovated King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah is a very interesting example. This ultramodern hub, with its cutting-edge facilities and increased capacity, is destined to become one of the region's major transit centers. Similar expansion projects are underway at Riyadh's King Khalid International Airport and Dammam Airport.

A top-class fleet

The national airline Saudia Airlines, as well as the new Riyadh Air, are committed to modernizing their fleets. A few days ago, Saudia Airlines announced a landmark order for 105 Airbus A320neo aircraft, worth $9.13 billion, while the Saudi Public Investment Fund has ordered 78 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, with a further 43 as options, for a total value of $22.8 billion. These new aircraft will enable the companies to better compete with other major Gulf airlines such as Emirates and Qatar Airways.

The purpose of this development

These enormous sums of money raise the question of the kingdom's intended purpose. One answer is to emphasize that the improved air infrastructure is designed to boost tourism and business. With the opening of new international routes and the facilitation of visa policies, Saudi Arabia hopes to attract 100 million annual visitors by 2030.

Projects such as NEOM, a futuristic city currently under development, and Al-Ula, a spectacular archaeological site, are at the heart of this ambitious tourism strategy.

In addition to tourism, the country's objective is to build up a strong logistics capacity in order to develop its air freight business. The development of the air fleet is accompanied by the deployment of airfreight centers, and the integration of cutting-edge technologies to manage supply chains is aimed at facilitating global trade.

Strategic competition with Turkey

Saudi Arabia is not alone in its quest to dominate air transport in the Middle East. Turkey, with its national airline Turkish Airlines, has also established itself as a major player in the region. Turkish Airlines recently announced an order for 600 new aircraft to bring its fleet to 813, a strategic investment designed to reinforce its leadership position.

The Turkish airline is counting on the quality of its offer, competitive prices and the advantageous geographical location of Istanbul, just three and a half hours from Paris. In April 2024, Turkish Airlines reported impressive financial results, with a net profit of 5.52 billion euros, outperforming European rivals such as Air France-KLM, IAG (the parent company of British Airways), and Lufthansa.

Competition between Saudi Arabia and Turkey is reflected in a race for investment and innovation, as each country seeks to attract a greater share of international air traffic.

Thanks to strategic investments and a long-term vision, Saudi Arabia is gradually becoming an established leader in the air transport sector. This transformation is positioning the kingdom as a hub for trade, tourism and technological innovation.

Sources :

https://www.lemonde.fr/economie/article/2024/05/20/l-arabie-saoudite-s-affirme-comme-un-acteur-incontournable-du-transport-aerien_6234457_3234.html

https://www.touleco.fr/L-Arabie-Saoudite-commande-105-Airbus-et-s-affirme-comme-un,42286

https://www.lefigaro.fr/societes/un-accord-historique-commande-record-de-105-avions-airbus-par-la-compagnie-saoudienne-saudia-20240520