Front Page Air Arabia takes off with sky-high hopes for future November 2003 3129 Adel Ali stands beside the Air Arabia aircraft. When Adel Ali, the CEO of Air Arabia, woke up on the morning of October 28, he knew it was no ordinary day. It was the day he had circled in his calendar six months back after taking up his new assignment and setting himself the near impossible task of launching the UAE’s third national airline - in record time. Having personally overseen everything down to the last detail, Adel heaved a sigh of relief as the Sharjah-based carrier’s inaugural flight to Bahrain took off from the VIP terminal at gate no. 10 of the Sharjah International Airport. “Having got Air Arabia off the ground, I will now have to work harder than ever to see that it continues to fly high,” he admitted.Even though the Sharjah Civil Aviation Department and the Sharjah International Airport Authority own the airline, Adel will run it just like any other commercial business. Starting off with an operational capital of Dh50 million ($14 million), the CEO is confident of funding the airline’s future expansion plans with the revenue Air Arabia hopes to generate over time.He knew very well that there were “far too many airlines in the Middle East” and that most of them were not making money, so the last thing that Adel wanted was to start another “conventional” airline. So, even though he modelled Air Arabia after leading American and European low-cost airlines like Easyjet, Jet Blue and Ryanair he made sure to customise it to suit local needs. “Unlike no-frills airlines in Europe, I prefer to say that we are a low-cost, high quality Middle Eastern airline since we don’t believe in packing our passengers like sardines with very little leg room nor do we want to deprive them of food, drinks and duty free onboard, which can bought at their discretion,” he says. “What’s more, the new aircraft arriving early next year will have also inflight entertainment which is complimentary.”Right now, the fleet consists of two A320 aircraft flying with no class distinctions to Muscat, Bahrain, Kuwait, Beirut and Damascus but, come next year, Air Arabia will expand its fleet to four Airbus A320 aircraft and fly to more destinations including Amman, Cairo, Doha, Isfahan, Shiraz, Tehran, Sana’a and Saudi Arabia. Adel explains that the airline has, among other things, contained costs by operating one type of aircraft that provides savings on cabin crew training, maintenance. “Besides omitting the cost of inflight meals and frequent-fliers schemes, we have also cut down the cost of ticketing since we are a truly ticketless airline and, in turn, passed on these savings to the customers in the form of competitive fares,” he says. As such, the online reservation service (www.airabia.com) is expected to field the majority of bookings. However, for those who do not have access to the Internet or are less web literate, seats can be booked through an advanced Call Centre on 600 56111 or over the counter at the airport. In addition, bookings can also be made through a number of appointed travel agents. As for the fares, they will be quite simply dictated by the market forces of demand and supply.