Former Air Canada and British Airways COO, Klaus Goersch, has been named CEO of the forthcoming NEOM Airlines, a new Saudi Arabian carrier meant to help build up the country’s tourism sector. The airline is expected to be operational by the end of 2024 and tagged to compete with Emirates.
NEOM is a Saudi Arabian ‘gigacity’ project that includes four ‘megacity’ projects, which the country says are intended to use smart city technology and urban planning techniques to build a futuristic, US$500-billion city near the north end of the Red Sea.
The airline will be based out of NUM (NEOM Bay Airport), which was completed in 2019, until the completion of NEOM International Airport. The airline would focus on moving people to and from the ‘gigacity’.
In a blog post, Goersch revealed the launch date about the new airline, and announced several other key details. Goersch says the airline will use advanced technology like biometric facial recognition technology to remove the need for departure gates and visas, and that technology will be used throughout the airline and airport to make the experience as enjoyable and seamless for passengers as possible.
“Just imagine if your bags were collected from your home or office and delivered to the hotel or residence you were going to,” says Goersch. “Imagine if biometrics were advanced enough to recognize you via facial recognition as soon as you walked in a building, security cleared you for travel without the need for even going through a gate – let alone having to bother with a visa.”
Goersch says that initially, the airline will acquire existing jets to get off the ground quickly. From 2026 onwards, the airline will invest in new, ultramodern aircraft that could be electric or hypersonic. The planes will also have live in-flight WiFi, large screens and gaming at every seat, and chat technology built in.
The first part of NEOM, the island of Sindalah, is expected to begin receiving visitors in early 2024. The island will feature several resorts and similar tourist attractions.
NEOM Airlines is the second new airline announced by Saudi Arabia recently. The Kingdom formally established Riyadh Air on 13MAR to become the country’s second national airline. The country says it expects Riyadh Air to fly to over 100 destinations by 2030.