Saudi Arabia's aviation ambitions took a big step forward last week, with the announcement that it intends to vastly expand its Riyadh airport, King Khalid and rename it after the current monarch, King Salman.
When finished, the project will cover over 57 square kilometers, have six operating runways and be able to handle 120 million passengers by 2030, and 185 million by 2050, making it one of the largest airports in the world by any measure. It would also be able to process 3.5 million tons of cargo.
The project is part of an eight-year $100 billion investment plan by the kingdom's oil-based sovereign investment fund. Saudi press officials said that the expansion is aimed at transforming Riyadh “to be among the top 10 city economies in the world and to support the growth of Riyadh’s population to 15 to 20 million people by 2030.” It also aligns with the country's goal of becoming as major tourism destination.
Another chunk of that money, estimated at around $30 billion, will go toward creation of RIA, Saudi Arabia's new airline, which is intended to complete with top Middle East carriers such as Emirates, Qatar and Etihad. It has already ordered 40 A350s and is expected to commence operations soon.