State-backed Saudi Arabian Airlines Group (Saudia) has appointed Jaan Albrecht as CEO effective from January 2017, according to an international media report.

Albrecht, who has most recently served as CEO of Turkish airline SunExpress and previously of Austrian Airlines, will replace Abdul Mohsen Junaid, who took the helm as CEO in February 2015.

Albrecht will report directly to the group’s general director Saleh al-Jasser.

It is understood Albrecht will be joined by a new senior management team including a chief commercial officer and chief finance officer.

The carrier, which received 63 new aircraft in 2016, has been undertaking a major restructuring of its management in preparation for the liberalisation of the kingdom’s aviation sector.

Saudia has a long-term plan to overhaul its operations to become more competitive. An international consultancy helped prepare the airline’s strategy for 2015-20. The plan focuses on ensuring the security and safety of passengers and aircraft, providing advanced training to staff, rationalisation of expenditures, and diversification of revenue and optimum use of human and material resources.

Saudia also announced in April that it is launching a low-cost airline, Flyadeal, with operations to commence by mid-2017.

In January, the airline said it plans to sell up to SR5bn ($1.3bn) of Islamic bonds in the second quarter of 2016 to refinance loans and buy planes. An executive with the airline said negotiations were under way with local banks to oversee the company’s first ever bond offering. In August, it was disclosed that the UK’s HSBC had been appointed instead as lead arranger for the sukuk (Islamic bond) issue, which was expected before the end of the year.

Saudia is understood to control an estimated 90 per cent of the kingdom’s aviation sector.