Dubai Airshow 2023: Riyadh Air unveils new secondary colour scheme

Riyadh Air CEO Tony Douglas demonstrates the new livery digitally on a tablet computer in front of an aircraft displaying the original colour scheme.

Having welcomed the glare of publicity for the unveiling of its striking purple colour scheme at June’s Paris Air Show, the curtain-raising on the carrier’s alternate livery today had to contend with the glare of the Dubai sun.

The new Saudi Arabian flag-carrier, which is scheduled to start flying in Q2 2025, has opted for a much more ‘standard’ second colour scheme, with an essentially white fuselage and the airline’s two shades of purple on the fin and rear fuselage.

Tony Douglas, CEO of the Riyadh-based airline, has been at pains to stress the airline’s three main attributes: an “obsessional attention to detail for the passenger experience”; being a digital airline without the burden of elderly IT systems most airlines have inherited; and a strong focus on environmental sustainability.

Yesterday’s unveiling focused on the latter two attributes, with the new livery becoming visible when journalists scanned a large QR code with their mobile phones, which generated a digital image of the alternate colour scheme.

The digital nature of the image also meant that the aircraft bearing the original colours did not have to be stripped and repainted at a paint shop, reinforcing the airline’s environmental credentials.

Unfortunately, the strength of sunlight on the flight line meant that the digital image on telephone and laptop screens was almost impossible to discern by many scribes and photographers.

Asked for the rationale for having two liveries, Douglas replied cryptically: “Because we can."

“What we’re trying to do is present ourselves in a way that demands explanation. The second livery demands an explanation.” The explanation as to why the airline has opted for a second livery less memorable than its first one is still awaited.

Riyadh Air is on the verge of announcing a major order for narrowbodies, to join the 39 Boeing 787-9s (plus 33 options) that it revealed earlier this year.

At last week’s World Travel Market exhibition in London, the carrier’s chief commercial officer, Vincent Coste, said that the company was “pretty much there” in terms of deciding the winning contender, with just some internal governance procedures to be completed before the announcement was made.