AIR Arabia, the first low-cost airline of its kind in the Middle East & North Africa region, has celebrated its first anniversary.
What started as a concept has turned into reality for over thousands of people throughout the Middle East, North African and Subcontinent as Air Arabia has carried over 520,000 passengers since the start of operations in October 2003.
“This is a momentous occasion for the region’s first low cost carrier,” said Adel Ali, Air Arabia’s CEO. “Air Arabia was a response to the regional need for an airline that offered everything a traveller would want at an affordable price. Without doubt this was to include comfort, service and safety and this is what Air Arabia offers at its most basic level. What it ultimately offers the region is the opportunity of travel – to some that had never flown, to others that wanted to travel more frequently. It brings family and friends together, it allows businesses to visit their clients and network offices more often, it offers weekend travel for a break or a student to visit their family during half term. Air Arabia has something for every traveller.”
The airline, with a start-up capital of Dh50 million, is all set to become profitable during its third year of operations – less than two years from now, said Ali. With a fleet of four Airbus A320s on five-year lease, the carrier has managed to serve 14 destinations from its hub in Sharjah.
Starting operations with five destinations – Beirut, Bahrain, Damascus, Kuwait and Muscat and 16 flights a week – Air Arabia now operates over 60 flights a week to 14 destinations in 10 countries within the Middle East, North Africa and Subcontinent. Over the last year Air Arabia has continued to add value over and above the guaranteed 20-50 per cent lower fares it offers with innovative promotions throughout their whole network; partnerships like Emirates Post to allow even greater convenience to passengers when purchasing tickets; services such as their in-flight duty free purchases, in-flight entertainment system on short and long haul routes and exclusive coaches that take passengers to and from the airport as well as a continued promise to bring people closer together.
“Air Arabia has had a successful year to date – not only in terms of passenger load, but across the network we averaged a seat factor of 77 per cent. Our top routes are Alexandria, Aleppo, Bahrain, Damascus and Kuwait,” added Ali.
Over the next six months the airline will offer increased destinations as its flies to Yemen in November and continues with plans to fly to India, Jordan and Pakistan. In the early part of 2005, its fleet will grow to five Airbus A320 aircraft allowing the airline increased frequency on existing routes and offering passengers the largest seat pitch in the regional market – that of 34 inches in comparison to 29 and at most 31 on most regional airlines.
The airline expects to have a fleet of 12 to 15 aircraft in five years. It also plans to float an initial public offering once it becomes profitable in two years.