Riyadh Air plans to expand its fleet with additional aircraft orders following its initial purchase of Boeing Co long-range jets last year, as the startup Saudi carrier seeks to establish itself alongside regional incumbents.

“We need a very large fleet, we’re going make a number of additional orders,” Chief Executive Officer Tony Douglas said in an interview with Bloomberg Television yesterday. “We will be making a narrowbody order, we’ll probably be doing another large order after that to build us up to scale.”

Backed by Saudi Arabia’s wealth fund, the airline plans to start operations in a year’s time. Riyadh Air already bought 39 Boeing 787-9 jets, with options for 33 more, last year, and the carrier introduced its concept at the 2023 Paris Airshow, including its dark purple aircraft livery.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to expand its aviation industry and pull in more tourists, expanding its airline capacity beyond the pilgrimage travel that now forms the backbone of the country’s inbound travel.

Douglas, who previously ran Abu Dhabi flag carrier Etihad Airways, said he’s “very conscious” of possible delays to aircraft deliveries, as both Boeing and Airbus SE struggle with production amid record demand and supply issues at the two planemakers.

Boeing, in particular, has been forced to reduce output following an accident on an airborne aircraft earlier this year. Douglas said the overhaul being done at the US manufacturer will act as a reset for leadership, adding that a new management team “has to stay absolutely focused and get back to basics.”
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