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Saudi Start-Up Riyadh Air Unveils First Livery

FlyDubai revealed its new livery on its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner on Sunday. (Photo: Riyadh Air)

Riyadh Air’s first 787 (Photo: Riyadh Air)

Saudi Arabia’s new Riyadh Air has unveiled its first livery. The first of two expected designs, the airline called it a “perfect blend of cutting-edge technology and timeless elegance.” Riyadh Air painted the scheme on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, of which it has ordered up to 72.

Riyadh Air’s is one of the few liveries that is not painted on a white background. Many airlines use such white bases to reflect light off of the aircraft to prevent it from overheating. Still, Air New Zealand has a special livery on a black background, Spirit Airlines paints its planes yellow, and AirAsia uses a red base.

Riyadh Air uses a purple background, perhaps closest to Australia’s Bonza or the United States’ Southwest, on its aircraft’s fuselage. The deep purple tapers to a lighter shade on the tail. The airline’s name is painted in both English and Arabic.

The Dreamliner that was painted, which uses registration N8572C, was previously painted in China Southern Airlines’ livery, according to data from FlightRadar24. This registration is likely dedicated to factory planes, as it has been used on other Dreamliners undergoing testing.

The fuselage of Riyadh Air’s newly-painted Boeing 787 Dreamliner. (Photo: Riyadh Air)

The plane flew from Portland, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina, where Boeing has its final Dreamliner production and rollout facility, for reveal. AirInsight.com reports that the aircraft is owned by Boeing and was originally built for MIAT Mongolia Airlines.

It is unclear whether Riyadh Air will split its fleet evenly between two liveries or if one will dominate. However, this first livery has captured significant attention in the aviation world and has quickly become a fan favorite for aviation geeks around the world.

It is possible that Riyadh Air will prioritize one livery for its long-haul aircraft and another for the narrowbody 737s that will potentially soon have on order. With the potential to take nearly 100 787 Dreamliners, and alleged talks with Airbus over an A350 order, there is enough reason to invest in separate liveries for both long- and short-haul aircraft. This may make logistical sense by keeping painting operations streamlined per fleet, reducing overall operating costs.

The Dreamliner’s tail tapers to a lighter shade of purple. (Photo: Riyadh Air)

Riyadh Air’s Role in the Market

Riyadh Air is Saudi Arabia’s new national airline and is being launched with the goal of increasing tourism in the country. Riyadh Air’s leaders aim to make it as large as the famed Middle Eastern carrier Emirates. Routes will initially start on these Dreamliners, though there are rumors that a Boeing 737 MAX order is also imminent.

Flights are planned to launch in 2024. Riyadh Air aims to serve over 100 destinations by 2030 and connect passengers between Asia, Africa, and Europe. While it is still to be seen how another market entrant would fare serving the same niche that Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, and even Saudia, the state-owned airline that Saudia Arabia already runs, other new market players have succeeded in recent years. Most notably, flyDubai has seen success as a low-cost counterpart to the United Arab Emirates flag carriers.

The new livery has a purple, instead of a white, base. (Photo: Riyadh Air)

Perhaps Saudia Arabia is seeking a method similar to the Emirates/Etihad duopoly in the United Arab Emirates. A key distinction, though, is that Emirates and Etihad use different hubs: Emirates goes through Dubai, while Etihad primarily uses Abu Dhabi. Saudia already uses Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport as a hub, meaning that it will compete directly with Riyadh Air on many routes. Perhaps Saudia Arabia will keep the two airlines largely separate by flying them to distinct destinations instead of having them compete directly on many routes.

There is also a possibility that the airline will serve alcohol, which Saudia does not per Islamic law. This rumor has yet to be confirmed or denied.

“The new airline reflects the ambitious vision of Saudi Arabia to be at the core of shaping the future of global air travel and be a true disrupter in terms of customer experience,” said Riyadh Air CEO Tony Douglas.

“Riyadh Air’s commitment to its customers will see the integration of digital innovation and authentic Saudi hospitality to deliver a seamless travel experience. By positioning the airline as both a global connector and a vehicle to drive tourist and business travel to Saudi Arabia, our new 787-9s will serve as a foundation for our worldwide operations, as we build a wider network and connect our guests to Saudi Arabia and many destinations around the world,” Douglas added.

Riyadh Air visited the final Boeing 787 assembly plant in South Carolina in May in preparation for its first deliveries. The company will show off its Dreamliner at the Paris Airshow this month. The aircraft and its livery are likely to draw crowds curious to learn more about the company and get a firsthand look at what is to come.

John McDermott


  • John McDermott

    John McDermott is a student at Northwestern University. He is also a student pilot with hopes of flying for the airlines. A self-proclaimed "avgeek," John will rave about aviation at length to whoever will listen, and he is keen to call out any airplane he sees, whether or not anyone around him cares about flying at all. John previously worked as a Journalist and Editor-In-Chief at Aeronautics Online Aviation News and Media. In his spare time, John enjoys running, photography, and watching planes approach Chicago O'Hare from over Lake Michigan.

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