Boeing focuses on quality management enhancement amidst safety concerns, says top official

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on the verge of launching an initiative in space tourism, according to a top official.

The CEO of the Saudi Space Agency, Mohammed Al-Tamimi, discussed the expanding role of spaceports and satellite deployment on the opening day of the 2024 Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh. 

The first day of the event showcased significant developments in tourism, aviation, and space exploration. Key figures from various sectors emphasized the rapid growth and strategic initiatives driving the industry forward.

“Within a window of 60 days from now, there will be an announcement to do some trials here in Saudi Arabia about space tourism,” Al-Tamimi revealed.

He also projected a significant increase in satellite launches, with expectations to send “36,000 satellites over the coming six years,” tripling the current number.

“Right now, we have more than 10,000 active commercial civil aviation airports. When it comes to spaceports, more than 20-22 are active in 12 different countries,” Al-Tamimi said.

Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb said “over 330 million people are employed in the tourism sector worldwide, or one out of every 10 workers.” 

He also celebrated the Middle East’s post-pandemic tourism surge, led by Saudi Arabia, which saw a “remarkable 22 percent growth compared to 2019.” 

Al-Khateeb attributed this success to value-driven travel options, shorter trips, and closer destinations. 

He praised the new e-visa system that enables travelers from 66 countries, representing over 80 percent of the global travel market, to visit Saudi Arabia easily.

In November 2023, the Gulf Cooperation Council approved the unified tourist visa, which will launch by 2025. Secretary-General Jassim Mohammed Al-Budaiwi announced it during the 40th meeting of the GCC interior ministers in Muscat, Oman. 

Similar to the Schengen scheme, this visa will allow tourists to travel across all six GCC member states.

The senior vice president of Boeing Co. and president of Boeing Global, Brendan Nelson AO, addressed the importance of transparency and integrity in the aviation industry. 

“It’s important that you are authentic, that you’re transparent, that you are open and honest with your customers, your investors, certainly with the flying public,” Nelson stated. 

In January this year, an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 experienced a fuselage rupture shortly after takeoff at an altitude of 4.8 km above Oregon. 

Nelson also discussed Boeing’s strategic decision to slow down production to stabilize supply chains despite the high commercial cost.

“We expect that we’ll have supply chain issues well through to the end of this year, possibly into early next year,” he said. 

Nelson emphasized Boeing’s commitment to sustainable aviation fuel, noting that currently, only “0.2 percent of global aviation fuel demand is being met by SAF.” 

He highlighted the aerospace manufacturer’s partnership with Saudi Arabia in various projects, including a joint venture with Saudi Arabia Military Industries and collaborations on aerospace-grade materials and advanced resins.

Tony Douglas, CEO of Riyadh Air, outlined the ambitious goals of the new airline, which is to become a major international carrier. 

“We’re going to connect to way over 100 different destinations by 2030,” Douglas announced, aiming to achieve in five years what took Qatar Airways over 20. 

He highlighted Riyadh Air’s advantage of starting without legacy systems, enabling a modern and technologically advanced approach. 

Douglas also shared updates on the airline’s progress, including the hiring of top-rated pilots and employees. A cabin crew fashion reveal is scheduled for the Paris Fashion Show next month, and a digital proposition unveiling is in October.

The 2024 Future Aviation Forum continues to highlight the dynamic advancements and strategic collaborations shaping the future of aviation and space exploration in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

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