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April 19, 2024
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The announcement of Riyadh Air as the second national airline of Saudi Arabia is part of a bigger plan to grow the country’s aviation activities. The future growth of Riyadh Air will not be possible without another plan: the new King Salman International Airport in Riyadh.

Plans for the new airport have been around for some years, but Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz formally announced the master plan in November last year. Funded by the same Public Investment Fund (PIF) that is establishing the new airline, the airport is about superlatives.

“King Salman International Airport is expected to be one of the world’s largest airports covering an area of approximately 57 km2, allowing for six parallel runways and including the existing terminals named after King Khalid,” PIF said in a November press release. “It will also include 12km2 of airport support facilities, residential and recreational facilities, retail outlets, and other logistics real estate. The airport aims to accommodate up to 120 million travelers by 2030 and 185 million travelers, with the capacity to process 3.5 million tons of cargo, by 2050.”

This indicates King Salman will be a huge hub, reminding us of the plan for the 200 million passengers per year airport at Dubai World Central that has been put in hibernation just before the Covid crisis hit the aviation industry. It will make King Salman the biggest airport in the Gulf region, which already has some impressive airports in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar.

The current King Khalid International Airport has five terminals. It was opened in 1983 and will accommodate 58 airlines, 600.000 tons of cargo, and 111.000 movements this year, according to its website. Terminal 3 has been recently upgraded and there are upgrade plans for Terminal 4, a direct link between 1 and 2, a bigger cargo area, and upgrades to the existing two runways.

View of King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh. (King Khalid International Airport)

Jeddah has growth plans too

On the other side of the country, King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah receives even eighty airlines from around the world and handles 41 million passengers before Covid. It has four terminals, including a special Hajj Terminal for pilgrims that come to see the country’s holy places like Mecca. Although in operation since 1981, Jeddah has seen continuous expansion to prepare it for up to eighty million passengers in the not-too-far future. The latest update was announced in February and seems to concentrate on adding cargo capacity to the airport, which currently has three runways.

So far, it isn’t clear if Saudia and Riyadh Air will operate out of the same hub or if they will split geographically between Riyadh and Jeddah. The capital of Riyadh will be too important to be lost for Saudia, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2020.

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Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

1 thought on “Riyadh Air’s future will be at King Salman’s mega airport

  1. Highly appreciated to take the final decision at a higher level. Modernization in airlines means huge money. Countries like Saudi Arabia can do it. A startup with a new airline name with brand new aircraft and including the most modern airport means a lot of total charges.
    Excellent to hear the start of a new airport with six runways, definitely one of the leading airports to avoid delays in arrival/ departure.
    Definitely a big question mark for all airlines in Asia, especially Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad.
    I hope for the best.
    Be the finest air product in the air for the world.

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