Riyadh Air, the new Saudi Arabian airline set to begin
commercial flights in 2025, is already making waves in the
aviation industry, with a mission to connect the Saudi capital
Riyadh with 100 destinations by 2030.

The airline has also started running teaser ads on social
media, including YouTube and Instagram.

According to CEO Tony Douglas, even though the airline is still
two years from launch, this is deliberate as the idea is to
start generating excitement now. “Obviously we’re a start-up,
we have a super exciting opportunity to tell a story about what
this brand is all about and what people should expect for it
over time.”

The other reason however is to solidify the airline’s position
as being digital first:

“We’re doing it through digital channels in particular because
we have no legacy. We’re going to present ourselves as the
world’s first truly digital airline.”

During the Paris Air Show, Riyadh Air unveiled its striking
purple livery. Douglas described it as “the kind of thing you’d
expect to see on the front of Vogue. It’s stunning, it’s very

However, this is just the first of two livery designs, with the
second to be revealed later this year, as part of a “tease and
reveal” strategy. The airline plans to engage with its audience
through social media, building anticipation and curiosity as
milestones are reached.

Tony Douglas said that ‘tease and reveal’ also builds
curiousity and anticipation about the passenger experience.
“Now we’ve obviously got people saying, ‘just a minute! If
you’ve done something so spectacular on the outside, what have
you done on the inside?”

Delivering more than just incremental service improvements
Even though it’s still too early for there to be specific
details about the on-board product, Riyadh Air has already said
that it will have economy, premium economy and business class
cabins but no first class.

Vice President of Guest Experience, Anton Vidgen gave two
reasons for that. First of all, “the premium end of the market
has developed rapidly over the past few years and the gulf
between business class and first class has shrunk to a mininal
level.” Secondly, Vidgen pointed out that there is a
substantial private jet market in Saudi Arabia now serving
passengers who may previously have booked first class.

However, Riyadh Air is definitely taking a premium positioning,
“we are positioning ourselves as a premium super premium
airline that is going to be best in class,” said Vidgen,”which
means that our business class will be absolutely at the top
range. Same with our premium economy product, the same with
our economy product.”

Vidgen also said that they are going to think about passenger
service improvements differently:

“We cannot think of this as an incrementalist arms race of
we’re going to offer slightly better food, slightly comfier

Instead, “I think we have a unique opportunity out there to
take a fresh look and a fresh approach to what guests are
actually looking for. And one of the ways that we’e going to
look at that is technology.”

According to Vidgen, being a startup gives Riyadh Air an
advantage. “The challenge that a lot of legacy carriers have is
that they have legacy technology that is often siloed, which
means your airport experience can’t talk to your lounge, can’t
talk to your on board, can’t talk to your pre book, can’t talk
to your destination that results in a fairly disjointed

On-board sustainability and APEX Greener
In his previous role as CEO of Etihad, Tony Douglas established
a reputation of being forward thinking on sustainability issues
and that ethos has been brought to Riyadh Air. At an event
ahead of the Paris Air Show, Douglas said that “It will be
commercial aviation sustainability that will differentiate the
winners and the losers, and anybody who doesn’t take it
seriously will probably fail.”

Anton Vidgen said that this will be reflected in the cabin,
through “waste minimisation,” and there are “many different
dimensions for that. How do you have more accurate inventory
forecasting so that you do not need to board as many items,
whether food, beverage amenities, any of those items?

“How do we have better forecasting to make sure there is a
match to those that want it and those that don’t? Second, we
are trying to look at different ways of structuring our
operations so that we look at recycling opportunities on board
or some wonderful new galley technology that is encouraging the
use of recycling.”

In addition to his role at Riyadh Air, Vidgen is also President
of the APEX Board of Directors.

As part of this, he highlighted the benefits that the new APEX
Greener powered by SimpliFlying database of sustainable
suppliers will bring to an airline like Riyadh Air:

“This is very much an industry initiative to encourage and
promote these incredible suppliers out there that are taking a
sustainable approach to their offering. To me, that’s really
exciting because I would like to use that at my own airline,
and I would like other airlines to use that as well.” (Source:

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