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Riyadh a Hot Spot on the Land and in the Sky

Written by Linda Hohnholz

Ryadh in Saudi Arabia is in the lime light these days and is welcoming new flights from Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific Airlines as well as from Shanghai on China Eastern Airlines.

The Saudi Air Connectivity Program (ACP) has signed a cooperation agreement with Cathay Pacific Airlines to launch direct flights between the Kingdom and Hong Kong in October 2024.
The agreement was announced in Hong Kong in the presence of the Saudi Consul General, Hamad Al-Jibreen, the Hong Kong Minister of Transport and Logistics, Lam Sai-hung, the Executive Management of the Saudi Air Connectivity Program and Cathay Pacific Airlines.

CEO of the Saudi Air Connectivity Program, Majid Khan, emphasized the convenience of the new direct flights between Hong Kong and Riyadh with Cathay Pacific. He stated: “This new route will significantly strengthen the air connectivity network in the Kingdom, making it more accessible to our main markets and attracting inbound tourism. Passengers from Hong Kong and the Cathay Pacific network, including China, Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, will now have a convenient and direct way to explore the vast tourism potential of Saudi Arabia. We eagerly anticipate the opportunities this will bring in the coming years.”

Cathay Pacific Group CEO Ronald Lam confirmed that the announcement of the launch of flights linking Hong Kong and Riyadh next October will strengthen their network in the Middle East and enhance air connectivity between Hong Kong and the GCC region. He added that these new flights would not only provide more travel options and greater comfort for customers travelling to and from Saudi Arabia but also open up significant opportunities for business, trade, and tourism, fostering a sense of optimism and hope for the future.

Riyadh Air, the newest national airline of Saudi Arabia, announced in a press release its expansion into the Chinese market by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China Eastern Airlines. This partnership was announced at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Dubai on June 3, 2024.

According to the release, this strategic partnership strengthens the growing economic and cultural ties between China and Saudi Arabia while unlocking new travel options for underserved markets.
China Eastern Airlines has recently launched direct flights from Shanghai to Riyadh, demonstrating a shared commitment to enhancing connectivity and fostering collaboration in trade, tourism, and culture.

CEO of Riyadh Air Tony Douglas said, “This MoU marks a significant milestone for Riyadh Air as China is a hugely important market for our future network. By collaborating with China Eastern Airlines, a leading player in the Chinese market, we can unlock new travel opportunities and drive economic growth across both countries. We are particularly excited to explore synergies in digital innovation, where both airlines share a commitment to the future of travel.”

He highlighted that this collaboration goes beyond connectivity, focusing on digital transformation. Recognizing China Eastern’s ongoing digitalization efforts, Riyadh Air sees great potential for knowledge sharing and technology development.

“Riyadh Air’s pioneering approach perfectly aligns with China Eastern’s focus on digital transformation, creating a powerful partnership for the future,” the release read.

Chairman of China Eastern Airlines Wang Zhiqing expressed the airline’s strategic cooperation with Riyadh Air, emphasizing their focus on the future. The MoU signifies collaboration in various business areas, including information technology and digital operations. He emphasized their enthusiasm about the outcomes of this cooperation, stating that China Eastern Airlines is dedicated to driving high-quality development, enhancing core competitiveness, and delivering “excellent products and experiences to customers through comprehensive digital empowerment”.

Moreover, the MoU facilitates the seamless connection between China Eastern Airlines’ Shanghai-based hub network and Riyadh Air’s future route network. These facilities will ease passenger transfers between China and regions such as the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and South America, fostering new development and growth for both parties.