Back in 2015, I visited my dear brother Yasir Al-Rumayyan to congratulate him on his new post as the Public Investment Fund governor. Back then, the fund’s team had less than 50 members working in one of the buildings inside Riyadh’s Digital City complex. With an unprecedented growth rate among leading sovereign wealth funds, the PIF now has more than 2,000 employees with a portfolio of five giga-projects and over 85 companies with about $600 billion in assets under management, excluding the values of the giga-projects until they commence commercial operations.
The latest breakthrough by the Saudi sovereign fund was last week’s announcement by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the launch of a new national airline, Riyadh Air. The airline will use a single hub based in Riyadh with the plan to acquire a fleet that has one or two models of aircraft.
The creation of the airline came after comprehensive studies on how to cater for the future mobility of millions of residents, international tourists and transit passengers. The initial plan is for operations to begin in 2024.
Riyadh Air will optimize the Kingdom’s new vision and its future business, cultural and natural attractions for business travelers and tourists around the world.
Al-Rumayyan will be the chairman of the airline, while Tony Douglas will be the CEO. The latter’s career includes 40 years of experience in the aviation and transportation fields. The management team will include best-in-class professionals both locally and internationally. In terms of economic returns, the new airline is expected to add $20 billion to Saudi Arabia’s non-oil gross domestic product growth and create more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs. King Salman International Airport will be the airline’s single hub. This new airport is expected to accommodate up to 185 million passengers and process 3.5 million tons of cargo by 2050 as part of the country’s vision to transform Riyadh to being among the top 10 city economies in the world and to support the growth of its population to 20 million people by 2030.
The current national carrier, Saudia, has been operating around the globe, optimizing the Kingdom’s strategic location as a business hub and home to the two holy sites that serve millions of pilgrims as they perform Hajj and Umrah. On the sports scene, the Saudia brand has been on the fast track of Formula 1 since the late 1970s and it continued this legacy by sponsoring the F1 race in Jeddah this weekend. To complement that legacy, Riyadh Air will optimize the Kingdom’s new vision and its future business, cultural and natural attractions for business travelers and tourists around the world.
In addition to the PIF’s newly created icons in Riyadh city, including King Salman Park, King Abdullah Financial District, the UNESCO-registered Diriyah Gate and the New Murabba, we now have its latest contribution, with the name of Riyadh flying sky-high globally.
• Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.