Riyadh Air to bring ‘romance’ back to travel with focus on passenger experience, says COO

Special Riyadh Air to bring ‘romance’ back to travel with focus on passenger experience, says COO
Peter Bellew, chief commercial officer of Riyadh Air, speaking to Arab News.
Short Url
Updated 25 November 2023

Riyadh Air to bring ‘romance’ back to travel with focus on passenger experience, says COO

Riyadh Air to bring ‘romance’ back to travel with focus on passenger experience, says COO

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s new airline, Riyadh Air, is aiming to reintroduce some “romance” into traveling, according to its chief operating officer. 

In an interview with Arab News at Dubai Airshow 2023, Peter Bellew talked up the digital-first focus of the carrier, which will see passengers’ faces serving as their boarding passes. 

His comments came after the company revealed the second livery for its wide-body aircraft through virtual reality, allowing visitors to experience the airline through their phones. 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the creation of the new national airline in March, with Riyadh Air set to make its first flight in 2025. 

The COO declined to say if there are confirmed destinations for the airline but said the company is set to have links with over 100 airports from Riyadh by 2030. 

Reflecting on the focus on creating an unrivaled customer experience, Bellew said that in the early days of aircraft-powered tourism, the trip to the airport was seen as part of the positive experience of traveling. 

“Maybe travel has lost that a little bit,” he said, adding: “What we’re trying to do is put that back into travel so that people will actually look forward to traveling, coming to the airport, visiting our lounges, being on board our aircraft no matter what class of travel they go in, (and) that we try and put a little bit of the romance back into travel so people will actually be actively looking forward to traveling with Riyadh Air as part of their overall holiday and their journey rather than maybe traveling on an aircraft as a chore.” 

The airline’s goal to deliver a ticketless experience is a key part of this, and Bellew said: “Once passengers register their details with the airline, their biometrics will be recognized and will ensure a smooth traveling experience with no need to have physical tickets or boarding passes, your face will be your ticket.” 

The new livery features an iridescent white aircraft, which differs from the indigo exterior announced at the Paris Air Show in June. 

The color purple is representative of the Saudi lavender flower which represents the regal experience of the airline, said Bellew. 

Riyadh Air’s latest livery continues the indigo theme inspired by canopies of traditional Bedouin tents and curves of Arabic calligraphy. 

Bellew said the decision to reveal the livery via VR was in touch with the company’s goal to become a fully digital native airline. 

“Everything we are doing throughout the airline is digital in nature. The obvious thing to do instead of spending money on painting an aircraft is to do the reveal digitally, which I don’t think is common and has the potential to go viral,” he said, adding: “The reaction has been great, and it’s proved to be a unique idea.” 

Bellew said Saudi Arabia is the perfect country to launch a project as big as this as the Kingdom is “so digitally enabled.” 

He added: “We plan to leave no stone unturned to treat people really as if they were guests in our own house and the way we travel,” he said. 

With Saudi Vision 2030 in mind, Bellew said Riyadh Air is in line with the sustainability goals of the Kingdom. 

“We are brand new; we’re getting brand new aircraft, so they will be highly fuel efficient. But also the way we run the airline, the way the software that we run, the way we plan our flights, everything like that, I think we will learn a lot that would benefit the rest of the airline industry,” he said. 

“We’ve ordered 72 Boeing 787 aircraft. We expect the fleet will go up to about 170 aircraft by 2030, and we will be really focusing on linking Riyadh with direct flights to all the major capitals in the world that are within range of Riyadh,” he said. 

Bellew was clear that he not only sees the airline benefiting from being a Saudi company but also that the Kingdom will profit from the company, particularly through establishing aviation training infrastructure. 

“If I can help grow the world’s best education for Saudi Arabia and give them an opportunity, I would be very happy. If I could travel in 15 years and meet young Saudi people running other airlines from what they’ve learned in the Kingdom, from what we’ve established, for me, I’d be very proud of that,” he added. 

Dubai Airshow 2023 is taking place from Nov. 13 - 17 at Al Maktoum International Airport and features 1,400 exhibitors from 48 countries, with over 180 advanced commercial, private and military aircraft on display. 

Other Saudi companies at the airshow include Saudia Airlines and Saudi Aerospace Co. 

Saudi Arabia, IAEA discuss cooperation on development of nuclear energy

Saudi Arabia, IAEA discuss cooperation on development of  nuclear energy
Updated 06 December 2023

Saudi Arabia, IAEA discuss cooperation on development of nuclear energy

Saudi Arabia, IAEA discuss cooperation on development of  nuclear energy

DUBAI: The International Atomic Energy Agency, the global overseer of the nuclear industry, says it is collaborating with Saudi Arabia to assist the Kingdom in developing its nuclear power production sector.

Given its key role in the regional energy landscape, there is a pressing need for production to transition from fossil fuels to low-carbon or zero-carbon emitting sources.

“We have noticed very fast development in Saudi Arabia toward nuclear energy. Now they are in the bidding process to try to get nuclear power into their energy mix. So, we hope we can see a substantial outcome of this process. We are seeing quite strong interest in this region in using nuclear power to improve the energy mix and the security energy mix, but also help to decarbonize the greenhouse gas emissions in the region,” Wei Huang, director at the Department of Nuclear Energy of IAEA told Arab News in an interview on the sidelines of the 2023 Climate Change Conference. 

He noted it is encouraging that the countries in this region, which are rich in fossil fuels, are now looking at nuclear energy as an alternative to minimize carbon emissions. He added that the IAEA supports member nations looking to develop nuclear power production. 

“Our agents provide a lot of technical support to make sure the country can be prepared well before they are moving toward nuclear power, including help them to review their infrastructure.”

He added that there are 19 milestones that every country must achieve before taking the nuclear route and that IAEA assists them in reaching these landmarks, which cover a vast spectrum from nuclear, finance, funding, human resources, safety and safeguards.

Huang welcomed statements from US Special Envoy on Climate Change John Kerry, voicing his appreciation for Kerry’s emphasis on global collaboration in nuclear fusion. He highlighted the proactive engagement of the IAEA in nuclear fusion technology alongside its partners and member states.

“We see quite a significant development in this area. Of course, compared to fission, which has been widely used over decades, there is still a lot of work to be to be done to make sure that fusion can be really be deployed in the coming decades. And so our agency has, you know, discussed with our member states and also partner to see how much we can do. We are now working on how to transfer nuclear fusion from mainly the science focus to more engineering-focused activities, including the regulatory framework on the fusion. So this is what the agency is doing now and there will be a lot of work to be done in a couple of years to make sure all the aspects had been prepared well for,” Huang said.

While Saudi Arabia is at the initial stage of nuclear power development, its neighbor, the UAE, has already established three operational units at its Barakah Nuclear Power Station, while the fourth unit is in the pipeline. 

“At Barakah, we have four units, of which three are operational. The fourth unit will come online soon. Together, the four units will produce about 5.6 gigawatts of electricity, which is equivalent to 25 percent of the total electricity production in the UAE. At Barakah, we have used APR1400 reactors, a Generation 3+ nuclear reactor built with Korean technology, constructed to the highest level of safety and quality. Moving forward, we would like to invest in other nuclear power plants and will examine all options,” Khaled Al-Shehhi, nuclear fuel quality surveillance manager at Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp., which owns Barakah, told Arab News.

The Barakah Nuclear Power Station is a $20 billion project bagged by the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., a state-owned enterprise and one of the world’s largest operators of nuclear power plants. The company says it is also looking to develop its exports in other markets.

“We are here at COP28 to introduce our Korea Small Modular Reactor known as ISMR. They are really sustainable energy solutions that will help nations to reach net zero goals. Regarding the development and export of our ISMR, KHNP is actively engaged in discussions with various countries, including Philippines and the UAE. The adoption of our ISMR is expected to accelerate the journey toward a carbon neutrality, especially in countries facing infrastructure limitations for large nuclear power plants such as South East Asia region and some regions which have difficulties in tapping renewable energies,” Sonia Sunyoung Hong, SMR overseas business team manager at KHNP told Arab News.

She added that KHNP’s relationship with the UAE could be a perfect example for other nations in the region, including Saudi Arabia. 

“Our relationship with the UAE is a good example of how we get countries with no nuclear experience. For instance, when we began working with the UAE in 2009, the UAE government had no experience of nuclear industry. They did not have any regulations, guidelines at all. KHNP helped and supported the government in developing concrete regulations and guidelines for the nuclear power plant implementation for the first time for the world,” Hong said.

Along with KHNP and the IAEA engaging in discussion with Saudi Arabia to help the country realize its nuclear ambitions, the World Nuclear Association, the global nuclear industry trade body, has also been holding talks with the Kingdom, said King Lee, head of policy and industry engagement at WNA.

“Saudi Arabia has been planning to deploy nuclear energy, and they have been planning that for some time. It is really aimed to address that quality need for clean power. Currently, most of the electricity generated from Saudi Arabia is from fossil fuels, from both burning of gas and oil. So nuclear power can help to generate clean power for Saudi Arabia. So Saudi Arabia is looking for both large reactors and the small, more advanced technology, small modular reactors. So, both the technologies are being considered for Saudi Arabia. We have been discussing with the Saudi government and institutions,” the official told Arab News.

When discussing fusion energy, he agreed with Huang of IAEA that it was still an evolving technology. 

 “Fusion is a technology that is currently under development, and we continue to support the research and development so that, hopefully, fusion reactors will become technically and commercially deployable. Research is going on in many countries, but we don’t have a timetable on as to when it may become available,” the WNA executive added.

Saudi Arabia’s 2024 budget set to aid the Kingdom’s successful trajectory, says finance minister

Saudi Arabia’s 2024 budget set to aid the Kingdom’s successful trajectory, says finance minister
Updated 06 December 2023

Saudi Arabia’s 2024 budget set to aid the Kingdom’s successful trajectory, says finance minister

Saudi Arabia’s 2024 budget set to aid the Kingdom’s successful trajectory, says finance minister


RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s 2024 budget is set to sustain the Kingdom’s positive economic momentum, with an emphasis on strategic  capital expenditure aligned with approved national strategies, according to the Minister of Finance.

In a statement following the 2024 budget approval, Mohammed Al-Jadaan highlighted the success of the ongoing economic transformation spearheaded by the government of the Kingdom.

The 2024 budget, according to the minister, is poised to continue the trajectory of success, aligning with the national strategies closely linked to the goals outlined in Saudi Vision 2030 and national priorities, reinforcing the commitment to long-term sustainable development.

Responding to a question by Arab News on Expo 2030, the minister said: “The country that is capable of receiving and building the infrastructure to accommodate 150 million individuals, can host our guests at Expo 2030 without increasing costs.”

Al-Jadaan emphasized Saudi Vision 2030 and the set of projects, initiatives, and measures included in the vision. He also highlighted the Kingdom’s initial plan to welcome 100 million visitors and revealed that the number will increase to 150 million by 2030.

In his response to Arab News, the minister revealed that: “The infrastructure and projects planned for construction in the Kingdom, particularly in Riyadh, from now until 2030 as outlined in the early stages of the vision, including the transportation and logistical services strategy, tourism strategy, expansion in hotel construction, and also the expansion of water projects, will be sufficient to provide the necessary infrastructure for hosting the expo and potentially three other expos.”

He added: “Expo village is going to be a commercial property, built by commercial companies and will be invested in beyond the six months,” adding: “That site will be a commercial site, it will not be wasted. And it will be obviously built sustainably.”

The minister said in a statement that the government is working on continuing borrowing according to the approved annual borrowing plan to finance the expected budget deficit and repay the outstanding debt by 2024.

The minister also revealed that since the inception of Saudi Vision 2030, the country has undergone considerable economic and structural reforms, resulting in the gross domestic product an increase, reaching more than SR4.1 trillion today, with an expected growth average at a rate of 6 percent from now until 2030.

Following the budget approval, he also stated in a press conference that the Kingdom’s economy created more than 1 million jobs during 2023, adding that oil price fluctuations that previously affected the budget have become much less affected thanks to non-oil revenues.

Highlighting the pivotal role of the Saudi citizens in the nation’s development, Al-Jadaan emphasized their contribution, saying: “The Saudi citizen plays a vital role in achieving comprehensive and sustainable economic development, as well as in accomplishing progress in various promising fields and sectors.”

The minister underscored the government’s commitment to social welfare through its ongoing efforts to conduct regular reviews of social support and benefit system initiatives to enhance these programs continually, ensuring access for the intended target groups and fostering an environment of inclusivity.

As Saudi Arabia charts its course into 2024, the government remains steadfast in its commitment to building a robust and diversified economy that not only meets the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 but also ensures a sustainable and prosperous future for its citizens.

Crown prince affirms government’s commitment to enhance economic growth

Crown prince affirms government’s commitment to enhance economic growth
Updated 06 December 2023

Crown prince affirms government’s commitment to enhance economic growth

Crown prince affirms government’s commitment to enhance economic growth

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman affirmed the government’s commitment to enhance economic growth through the expansion of government spending as reflected in budget 2024 on Wednesday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

He said the budget announced by King Salman will help support various ongoing programs and initiatives to improve the Kingdom’s investment environment, strengthen infrastructure, and raise the quality of services provided to citizens, residents, and visitors to the country.

The crown prince said the budget seeks to develop promising economic sectors by stimulating the Kingdom’s industrial sector with a focus on increasing the local content and boosting non-oil exports.

He praised the role of the Public Investment Fund and the National Development Fund in helping diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from oil through major investments in different economic sectors.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also noted the achievements of the Kingdom in various sectors since the launching of Vision 2030 and the government’s efforts to introduce structural reforms in the financial sector.

The crown prince stressed the importance of strengthening partnerships with the private sector to achieve the goal of economic diversification and increasing job opportunities for the Saudi workforce.

The number of Saudi workforce in the labor market has reached 2.3 million this year, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

He also highlighted the role of the tourism and sports sectors in the Kingdom’s efforts to diversify its economy.

The crown prince expressed the government’s determination to continue with its efforts to increase the Kingdom’s attractiveness as an economic and investment hub for local and foreign investors.

Saudi Arabia set to lead global drive for digital sustainability with new e-waste initiative

Saudi Arabia set to lead global drive for digital sustainability with new e-waste initiative
Updated 06 December 2023

Saudi Arabia set to lead global drive for digital sustainability with new e-waste initiative

Saudi Arabia set to lead global drive for digital sustainability with new e-waste initiative

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is poised to spearhead the global drive for digital sustainability through a new e-waste initiative aimed at implementing comprehensive regulations in Zambia, Rwanda and Paraguay. 

The Kingdom’s Communications, Space and Technology Commission, in collaboration with the International Telecommunication Union, launched the new “Developing E-Waste Management Regulations” initiative during COP28 in Dubai. 

The initiative will focus on expediting the shift to green practices by introducing robust regulations that foster a circular economy, according to the statement. 

E-waste has become a pressing concern globally, with 54 million tons generated annually, of which only 17 percent is currently recycled. 

The announcement was made in the presence of key dignitaries, including CST Governor Mohammed Al-Tamimi and Deputy Secretary-General of the ITU Tomas Lamanauskas.  

Representatives from the beneficiary countries also participated in the event, signaling a unified global effort to address the mounting challenge of e-waste. 

Al-Tamimi expressed the Kingdom’s determination to offer innovative solutions for managing e-waste and reducing its environmental impact. The initiative seeks to contribute to the global drive towards a circular economy, promoting responsible consumption and sustainable waste management practices. 

Lamanauskas commended the critical role of strong regulations and legislation in addressing e-waste challenges across both private and public sectors.  

He emphasized transitioning to a circular economy emerging as a top solution to combat the adverse effects of e-waste on the environment.  

Lamanauskas also urged regulators worldwide to adopt and implement similar regulations to expedite the adoption of green practices. 

CST’s participation in COP28 reflects Saudi Arabia’s commitment to spearheading global initiatives for digital sustainability.  

The Kingdom’s ongoing efforts align with its broader transformation towards a circular economy, marked by qualitative initiatives aimed at raising awareness and advocating best technology practices for a sustainable future and society. 

As the new initiative gains momentum, stakeholders anticipate positive outcomes in the global fight against e-waste, setting an example for other nations to follow suit in adopting environmentally responsible practices. 

Global central banks maintain gold buying momentum in October: World Gold Council

Global central banks maintain gold buying momentum in October: World Gold Council
Updated 06 December 2023

Global central banks maintain gold buying momentum in October: World Gold Council

Global central banks maintain gold buying momentum in October: World Gold Council

RIYADH: Central banks worldwide amassed 42 tons of gold into their official reserves in October, continuing their acquisition of the precious metal, the latest data showed. 

According to the World Gold Council, central banks witnessed a 41 percent slowdown in gold buying in October compared to September. However, it still maintained a 23 percent increase above the January-September monthly average of 24 tons. 

In September, central banks added 72 tons of gold to their reserves.

The People’s Bank of China continued its trend as the largest purchaser of gold in October, adding 23 tons to its reserves.  

This marked the twelfth consecutive monthly addition, bringing the year-to-date purchase of gold by PBoC to 204 tons, with its overall reserves reaching 2,215 tons.  

However, this reported increase still constitutes just 4 percent of PBoC’s total international reserves.

The Central Bank of Turkey significantly boosted its official gold reserves in October by purchasing 19 tons, bringing the total to 498 tons.  

Similarly, the National Bank of Poland continued its buying spree, adding 6 more tons to its reserves, totaling an increase of over 100 tons for the year, reaching 340 tons.

In October, the Reserve Bank of India acquired 3 tons of gold, and the Czech National Bank purchased 2 tons.  

Additionally, the National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Qatar Central Bank each bought 1 ton of gold during the month, as per the WGC.

Meanwhile, gold prices saw a slight increase, with spot gold rising 0.2 percent to $2,023.62 per ounce, and US gold futures gaining 0.3 percent to $2,041.60 by 03:47 p.m. Saudi time on Wednesday.

“While gold may draw support from speculation around the Fed cutting rates, it may take a fresh fundamental spark to re-ignite the bullish rally. This could come in the form of the highly anticipated US jobs report on Friday,” said FXTM Senior Research Analyst Lukman Otunuga, Reuters reported.