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Can a new Saudi national airline succeed?

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Saudi Arabia has announced plans to develop a second national airline to compete directly with premium flag carriers Emirates and Qatar Airways and turn Saudi Arabia into a Middle East logistical hub. While we do not yet know the new carrier’s name or when it will be launched, it does give a clear signal of the Saudis’ ambitions for the region.

As an economic strategy devised by the kingdom’s de-facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), it makes coherent sense.

With oil and gas counting for half of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product (GDP), there is a need to reduce dependency on this sector as nations across the world wean themselves off fossil fuels. To diversify the economy and improve connections with the rest of the world, MBS has pledged to increase flight routes from 80 to 250 destinations and to double air cargo capacity to more than 4.5 million tonnes per year. In return, Saudi Arabia hopes to tap into new jobs and opportunities, marrying the ambitious airline service expansion with a tourism strategy to create 260,000 more jobs in the hospitality sector in the next three years, including opening up 38 new tourist sites.

In many ways, Saudi Arabia is well placed to succeed, sitting as it does at a central point in the world between the West and the East. The kingdom is willing to spend big to accelerate the modernisation of infrastructure, is hosting increasingly large sporting events and enjoys strong relations with Western powers. Under United States President Donald Trump, relations hit new heights, with new investment and arms deals: President Joe Biden has maintained good relations, even if he is more conciliatory towards its arch rival, Iran. The national........

© Al Jazeera

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