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Riyadh Air remains firmly on schedule to launch operations in 2025. The CEO says he is confident of receiving the initial aircraft deliveries as per schedule. Image Credit: Riyadh Air

Dubai: The global aircraft supply chain crisis will ‘fix itself’, according to Riyadh Air CEO Tony Douglas at the Arabian Travel Market summit. The Saudi Public Investment Fund owned airline, founded in March 2023, is set to launch commercial operations in 2025.

Douglas is confident that Riyadh Air will be taking aircraft deliveries by mid-2025 as scheduled. “We are looking at it with our eyes wide open,” he said.

"We have voiced our concerns like everybody else; we're actively managing with them. Because these things don't fix themselves. And it isn't going to sort itself out quickly, anytime soon.

“So, there's a responsibility I think of acting in a collaborative way to get an outcome that works - to start well. I need an aircraft. I need a lot of them. Quickly."

The airline industry has been hit by supply chain challenges as Boeing continues to face snags related to its past production.

"We will be making a narrow-body order, and we’ll probably be doing another large order after that to build us up to scale," says Tony Douglas of Riyadh Air. Image Credit: Bloomberg

New planes

The Saudi airline CEO said plans are in place to expand its fleet size without providing specifics.

“We need a large fleet, so we’re going to make a number of additional orders,” said Douglas to ‘Gulf News’. “We will be making a narrow-body order, and we’ll probably be doing another large order after that to build us up to scale.”

Riyadh Air bought 39 Boeing 787-9 jets last year, with options for 33 more, and the carrier introduced its concept at the 2023 Paris Air Show, including a dark purple aircraft livery.

Commenting on its long-anticipated order for narrow-body jets, Douglas said the deal size and plane model would be announced within months. The order, which was teased during the Dubai Airshow in November last, ‘has been finalised’.

“We don’t need to (announce) it at this point in time. We are just holding back on it. But we’re done (finalising it).”

'Time and patience'

Douglas, who used to run an aircraft assembly plant with British Aerospace in the 1990s, said he is no stranger to supply chain challenges. "Over 30 years ago, I used to run an aircraft assembly plant. There are well over 4 million components in every commercial aircraft, and the level of complexity in this goes without saying.

“When you go down one layer in the supply chain, certainly when you get down to two layers, it's pretty much the same supply chain that goes into both. These challenges will fix themselves quickly. It will require patience, time, proper leadership, focus, and dedication.

“But again, let's face it. You know what a difference three years make. Pre-pandemic, it was a completely different situation in terms of orders and unavailability versus where we are now. These things go through cycles.

“I've seen several of them in my time in commercial aviation, and there'll probably be cycles similar to this up and down in the future. It will fix itself for sure.”