Multi-billion dollar project, which will take almost three decades to complete, was officially unveiled last Sunday by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who aims to modernize and transform the conservative Muslim kingdom.
The airport will be the hub for a new Saudi airline, which is expected to , will be called RIA (Riyadh International Airlines) — an international carrier that aims to turn Saudi Arabia into a major tourist destination.
RIA aims to replicate the success of its “neighbours”, primarily Emirates and Qatar Airways, targeting transfer passengers traveling from West to East and vice versa, using the Middle East region as a convenient transfer point.
As is the new airline Riyadh, the city's new King Salman International Airport will be funded by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund. The master plan states that its purpose — “stimulate transport, trade and tourism and act as a bridge connecting East and West.”
The airport will be powered by renewable energy and economically one of the top ten largest in the world.
Over the next eight years, the airport will be greatly expanded to serve 120 million passengers annually, and by 2050 this figure should grow to a staggering 185 million passengers a year.
The airport will be built on the site of Riyadh's existing King Khalid International Airport and will use the existing terminal buildings, although passenger traffic will be split between local and western travelers.
In comparison, Dubai International Airport (DXB) served 89 passengers in 2018 million passengers, while it worked almost at full capacity. The planned replacement for DXB, Dubai World Central, a larger airport 40 kilometers southwest of downtown Dubai, is designed to handle 250 million passengers a year. True, work on this project has been put on hold indefinitely.
The current busiest airport in the world, Atlanta Hartsfield, handled about 110 million passengers in 2019, but this includes US domestic flights at the time how King Salman International Airport will focus on long-haul international air travel.
Details of the new airport were not disclosed, but the Saudi Arabian State Investment Fund says the airport will be designed with Saudi Arabian culture in mind, and environmental friendliness will be the foundation airport.