Riyadh Air set to expand partnerships with more airlines

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Riyadh Air is expanding its network of partnerships with established carriers around the world as Saudi Arabia’s newest airline seeks to build global ties ahead of its market debut next year.

The airline, which is owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, is close to announcing an accord with a major southeast Asian carrier in coming days, according to people familiar with the plan. Riyadh Air is also working on agreements with an Indian carrier for long-haul flights as well as a US airline, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.

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Representatives for Riyadh Air declined to comment.

The company will begin operations in the middle of next year, seeking to win back business that’s been taken over by regional carriers like Emirates or Qatar Airways. With a large local population — Saudi Arabia has more than 36 million inhabitants — and a nascent tourism industry, Riyadh Air is building up a fleet to capture more of those travel flows.

The partnerships would give Riyadh Air instant access to the wide networks that its partners already serve, while providing feeder services into those destinations. The company already entered agreements last year with Turkish Airlines, which flies to more destinations than any other carrier. There’s also an existing accord with Saudia, the country’s flag carrier.

Riyadh Air has orders for 39 787s with options for an additional 33 jets. The carrier is also looking to order narrowbody as well as additional widebody jets, as it seeks to scale up its short-haul services.

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