‘The airline is like my own child’
The last 18 months have seen Air Arabia flying at a new altitude of success. From three flights a week to daily flights, the airline today flies to 18 destinations from Sharjah including their newest routes to Sharm El Sheikh, Luxor and Libya.
The airline today boasts five modern A320 aircraft that fly non-stop to Bahrain, Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
TTN caught up with Adel Ali, CEO of Air Arabia. Excerpts from an interview:
Air Arabia has seen massive growth over the last 18 months. What, according to you, has contributed to this growth?
It is a wonderful feeling seeing your business expand. We are doing what has never been done; we are going where no one else has gone before. Our business is to make people travel and it is satisfying to see it happen.
We launched flights to Alexandria, following which many bigger airlines have done the same. Today, we have two daily flights to the destination. Soon, others will do the same.
We are exploring new markets. We are opening opportunities for new potential tourist destinations by making our presence felt in these newer and smaller regions which have high tourism potential and promises a big market. People forget about these places and their potential.
Our newest destination, Sharm El Sheikh is a well-known tourist destination. We took the risk, the initiative to start our services there. We opened a route. Today, we are confident of its development giving tourists an opportunity to take advantage of what Air Arabia has to offer and increase the popularity of the resorts in and around Sharm El Sheikh.
There has been a lot of uncertainty about the future of low-cost airlines. How do you cope with that speculation?
The low-cost strategy has only seen growth in the market. This is a concept that gives more people the opportunity to travel more. Low-cost airlines are a proven business model. It was started more than 30 years ago and has shown good results… It is a different business concept.
It is a concept that requires constant pumping of new ideas. We are value-for-money driven and this will only further extend when we launch Air Arabia Hotels.
Negativity is driven by competitors who know that we are tough competition. They know they have to work harder now. Since our launch in October 2003, Air Arabia has only seen positive growth. The airline is commercially viable and people have only been complimentary about our services.
Even if we have had complaints, they are small issues which are looked into immediately. In an industry such as ours, you are bound to upset a few, but we please many more. Air Arabia has a 95 per cent satisfaction record.
How would you rate the service provided on-board Air Arabia?
At Air Arabia, service is not just about what we serve on board. Providing good service also means comfortable seats, clean environment, on-time departures and arrival. Punctuality plays a major role in our success.
How involved are you in the day-to-day operations at Air Arabia?
Personally, I am very hands-on. I get involved in everything. I even make it a point to frequently visit the airports, talk to people and find out if we are going wrong anywhere and what can be done about it.
The airline is like my own child, I need to know what she is doing and how she is faring all the way. There is a lot to look out for. We have now also launched our in-flight magazine, giving us a medium to constantly be in touch with our customers and keeping them updated with all the latest happenings.
We will continue to please our customers in every possible way. We are simple. We are clear about what we have to provide and what we expect from our customers. We are basic and simple method of air transportation and that's what we plan to remain as.
What expansion plans are there in the pipeline?
We are currently focusing on an aggressive expansion of routes.
We have just introduced two new routes – Sharm El Sheikh and Luxor – taking our total number of destinations to 18 major cities. This will result in an increase in fleet as well, maybe on an average of two every year. But this increase in fleet is to support the growth in our services.
However, we are not planning and will never plan for an A380, since that would change the entire concept of being a budget airline. We are a point-to-point service provider.
We do not provide long-haul services, so our expansion plans are focused on different areas. We will focus on feasibility, convenience and affordable travel.
Where do you see the airline five years on?
Five years on, we see ourselves with a massive network of routes and still growing and growing all the way.