Riyadh Air, a new Saudi Arabian airline that will begin commercial flights in 2025, is already creating ripples in the aviation business, with a goal of connecting the Saudi capital Riyadh with 100 locations by 2030.
The airline has also begun advertising teaser commercials on social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram.
According to CEO Tony Douglas, even though the airline is still two years away from opening, this is intentional since the goal is to generate enthusiasm today. “Obviously, we’re a start-up, and we have a fantastic opportunity to tell a story about what this brand is all about and what people can expect from it in the future.”
The other purpose is to reinforce the airline’s status as a digital first:
“We’re doing it primarily through digital channels because we have no legacy.” We intend to introduce ourselves as the world’s first totally digital airline.”
Riyadh Air debuted its distinctive purple livery at the Paris Air Show. It was characterized by Douglas as “the kind of thing you’d expect to see on the cover of Vogue.” It’s beautiful and really elegant.”
The first of two livery concepts, however, will be presented later this year as part of a “tease and reveal” plan. The airline intends to interact with its audience via social media, increasing anticipation and intrigue when milestones are met.
According to Tony Douglas, ‘tease and reveal’ increases curiosity and anticipation regarding the passenger experience. “Now, obviously, people are saying, ‘Just a minute! What have you done on the inside if you’ve done something so wonderful on the outside?”
Providing more than merely incremental service enhancements
Even though it is too early to provide specifics regarding the on-board product, Riyadh Air has stated that it would include economy, premium economy, and business class cabins but no first class.
Anton Vidgen, Vice President of Guest Experience, explained why. To begin with, “the premium end of the market has developed rapidly in recent years, and the gulf between business class and first class has shrunk to a negligible level.” Second, Vidgen noted that there is a sizable private jet industry in Saudi Arabia that is now servicing people who may have previously bought first class.
Riyadh Air, on the other hand, is clearly looking for a premium posture. “We are positioning ourselves as a premium super premium airline that is going to be best in class,” said Vidgen, “which means that our business class will be absolutely at the top range.” The same goes for our premium economy product and our economy product.”
Vidgen has said that they will approach passenger service enhancements differently:
“We cannot think of this as an incrementalist arms race in which we will offer slightly better food and slightly more comfortable duvets.”
Instead, “I believe we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a fresh look and a fresh approach to what guests are actually looking for.” And one of the ways we’ll look at that is through technology.”
According to Vidgen, Riyadh Air has an edge because it is a startup. “The challenge that a lot of legacy carriers face is that they have legacy technology that is often siloed, which means your airport experience can’t talk to your lounge, can’t talk to your on board, can’t talk to your pre book, and can’t talk to your destination, which results in a fairly disjointed experience.”
Greener APEX and sustainability on board
Tony Douglas’ prior tenure as CEO of Etihad built a reputation for being forward-thinking on sustainability problems, and that mindset has been carried over to Riyadh Air. Douglas stated at an event prior of the Paris Air Show, “It will be commercial aviation sustainability that will differentiate the winners and losers, and anybody who doesn’t take it seriously will probably fail.”
This, according to Anton Vidgen, will be represented in the cabin through “waste minimisation,” and there are “many different dimensions for that.” How can you improve inventory forecasts so that you don’t have to board as many products, whether food, beverage amenities, or any combination of those?
“How can we improve forecasting to ensure that there is a match between those who want it and those who don’t?” Second, we’re looking at alternative ways to structure our operations so that we can look at recycling options on board or some fantastic new galley technology that encourages recycling.”
Vidgen is President of the APEX Board of Directors in addition to his work at Riyadh Air.
As part of this, he emphasized the advantages that the new APEX Greener powered by SimpliFlying database of sustainable suppliers will provide to an airline such as Riyadh Air:
“This is very much an industry initiative to encourage and promote these incredible suppliers out there who are offering a sustainable approach.” That excites me because I’d like to utilize it at my own airline, and I’d like other airlines to adopt it as well.”
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