Businesses have been hesitant to attach themselves to the kingdom ever since Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ambitions to develop Saudi Arabian Airlines, also known as Saudia, into an international carrier capable of rivaling Qatar Airways. But the world is not biting following a succession of controversies to engulf the kingdom and its ruler.

According to CNN, the Saudis are planning an expansion of the airline to diversify the kingdom’s economy away from oil, and to match successful neighbouring airlines Qatar Airways, Etihad and Emirates.

However, sources state that the Prince’s efforts to develop the airline have become complicated following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which has damaged the Saudi government’s international reputation.

“Our brothers in the UAE and Qatar have worked so well to transform aviation in the Middle East … Saudi aviation companies should have a much greater share in the Middle East aviation market,” Prince Mohammed said in an interview with Saudi state television in 2017.

And to help push his agenda further, Saudi Arabia is currently hosting its first international airshow in Riyadh. Dozens of international companies are listed as exhibitors at the show. However, despite the kingdom’s best efforts, Boeing (BA), Airbus (EADSF), Raytheon (RTN) and Thales said they will be represented by regional staff at the event rather than global executives.

CNN points out that businesses have been hesitant to attach themselves to the kingdom ever since Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. Following the murder, Richard Branson ended talks regarding investments in his Virgin space-travel venture, and Endeavor returned its US$400 million investment from the kingdom. Private-equity firm Blackstone Group, Uber and Goldman Sachs cancelled plans to attend a major investment conference in the Saudi capital shortly afterwards, and governments, politicians and businesses worldwide have distanced themselves from both the Prince and the kingdom.

Experts point out that expanding Saudia is not Prince Mohammed’s only plan. As part of his Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia wants to grow its tourism industry and boost the number of visitors to the kingdom. But all of those plans have been up in the air since Khashoggi’s murder.


Ahmed Naser is a UK-based journalist with a deep understanding of the Middle East. Ahmed is a contributor to a wide range of regional publications in the Middle East. He works across print and digital media as a freelance editor and writer.

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