Sharjah no-frills airline is all set


MenaJet, the first no-frills airline in the Middle East, is poised to be launched in Sharjah in December.

The carrier will be based at Sharjah International Airport and will operate low-fare scheduled services, initially using two Airbus A320 aircraft each fitted with 162 single class seats.

The principal shareholders in menaJet are Gulf Finance House and the Al Zamil Group.

"Every region in the world has its own no-frills airlines. It's time for Middle East travellers to have the benefits of low fares, transparency and a friendly efficient service," said menaJet general manager Mazen Hajjar.

"We will be a safe and reliable high-frequency operator using the highly successful Southwest Airlines and Ryanair business models to offer passengers a greater choice."

The carrier will target growth in intra-Arab travel. Preliminary figures for 2002, issued by the Airports Council International, which monitors passenger and cargo movements at 760 of the world's major airports, show that although passenger numbers were down 3 per cent in North America and flat in Europe, the Middle East recorded growth of 5 per cent last year.

"MenaJet will focus predominantly on high-density destinations with year-round opportunity. Our customers will range from regular travellers, such as expatriates and people with regional holiday homes, to business people and those looking for short holiday breaks," Hajjar said.

Hajjar said it was too early to reveal details of the routes the airline would serve. However, he said, the intention was to fly passengers to a number of major regional destinations in relative comfort.

"Our aircraft will be configured in such a way that seats will have a 32-inch pitch, giving passengers more leg room than that found in other no-frills airlines," said Hajjar.

Hajjar says it confident the success of budget airlines in the US and Europe can be replicated in the Middle East.

"Low fares create and expand travel markets. People who wouldn't normally consider flying are attracted by the low cost of the tickets. Elsewhere in the world the introduction of these airlines has led to a doubling of the number of passengers on routes within three years," he said.