RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s newest airline will use artificial intelligence to track the least carbon-emitting flight routes, according to its chief operating officer.
Speaking during a panel discussion at the UN World Tourism Day 2023, held from Sept. 27-28 in the Saudi capital, Riyadh Air’s Peter Bellew discussed how the company was putting sustainability concerns at the center of its development.
The airline, announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March, has ordered 72 Boeing 787s, described by the executive as “the most carbon efficient aircraft there is out there.”
He added: “We’re going to track in a unique way every single step and every part of our business (to see how) we can reduce our carbon emissions, how we can improve fuel usage, how we can use artificial intelligence to assist us and the optimal flight paths, flight routings, and all those things together.”
The national carrier acknowledges its advantage as a startup without legacy systems and emphasizes its commitment to sustainability.
The airline will also use IT systems to track each crew member’s carbon index, encouraging eco-friendly practices.
Additionally, they are exploring environmentally conscious systems at airports, including electric and hydrogen-powered ground equipment.
“This is going to be the center of the largest generation of green and blue hydrogen on planet Earth, and we’ll be able to take that through into our maintenance or repair our overhaul, and our engineering facilities,” Bellew said.
He mentioned the airline’s aim to use eco-friendly hydrogen energy by 2030, aligning the carrier with prospective sustainability principles.
“I hope that by 2030, they’ll all be powered by clean green hydrogen energy, and then you’ve got the whole Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (sustainability principles) that we can do with what’s on board the aircraft in terms of the management of the waste, to all our buildings and everything,” he added.
Overall, the airline sees these initiatives as an opportunity to lead by example and foster positive change in the industry.
Bellew stressed the advantages of being a new airline in today’s technology-driven era, considering it a remarkable opportunity to leverage the latest advancements in data utilization and AI.
Moreover, Ahmed Daoud, executive director of innovation at the Royal Commission for AlUla, mentioned that the city has developed a blueprint or a plan for involving entrepreneurs and startups in the region to focus on significant growth through environmentally conscious practices.
This model is “not only sustainable but regenerative and creates wealth and opportunities for local communities,” Daoud said.
He also added: “That also allows us to continue to invest in our local environments as well.”
Saudi Arabia has become the first country to back a call for $1 trillion in annual investment into the global startup ecosystem from G20 countries during the Startup20 engagement group’s summit in India this year.
Daoud outlined a strategic approach to leveraging a global entrepreneurial ecosystem to benefit a young tourist destination.
He said: “We create synergies between a broader global entrepreneurial ecosystem making investments directly now, not from a venture capital or corporate venture capital perspective, that’s not our position, but in terms of creating symbiotic relationships where we can compete as a nascent tourist destination, by leveraging these advanced solutions that are being developed on the S side of the SME spectrum.”
He further explained that this approach is being applied to local startups within Saudi Arabia, and there are plans to expand this model to include businesses from the global entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“We’re investing heavily in expanding that model to a global entrepreneurial ecosystem as well,” Daoud continued.
WTO is held under the theme “Tourism and Green Investments” to encourage global collaboration in exploring opportunities to strengthen the tourism industry’s resilience and push the sector toward an investment-led and environmentally conscious future.
During the two-day event, tourism CEOs will deliver keynote comments, while panel discussions will focus on three UNWTO essential themes: people, planet, and prosperity.
Participants will learn about the power of tourism and its role in integrating cultures, preserving the environment, and creating a more peaceful and connected world.
Saudi Arabia will hand over the chair to Georgia, who will host the event next year.