Budget prices, big ambitions

ONE year after Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways first ‘freed’ travellers, TTN’s SARA AL HAJI sits down with chairman and CEO Marwan Boodai to find out what’s next on the agenda at the Middle East’s fastest-growing airline. Excerpts:
Boodai: double the excitement in 2007

Jazeera Airways has added 13 new destinations in the last 10 months? How did you manage this?
The growth we had in our first year was remarkable in all areas, especially in traveller numbers, fleet size, and route network.

We launched on October 30, 2005, with two brand new Airbus A320s and a network of five destinations, today  about 12 months later, we have a fleet of four brand new Airbus A320s fitted with leather seats carrying our travellers to 13 destinations.
We had a truly intense and exciting start-up year, our travellers grew from 30,000 a month in January to 60,000 in June, and we plan to double the intensity, and excitement in 2007.

So what’s your strategy for 2007?
We have a two-fold strategy for our second year of operation. The first part is to reinforce our current routes and markets through adding frequencies, increasing on-ground tactical initiatives, and further strengthening our relations with the travel trade. The other part of our ‘flight plan’ for 2007 is to continue in our ambitious growth strategy. We will launch new routes with the arrival of our fifth brand new Airbus A320, which we are scheduled to receive in January.
From reinforcing routes to launching new destinations, 2007 is a very important year for us as we also look to reinforce our relations with the travel trade.

Air Arabia and Jazeera Airways have proved that there is a demand for budget airlines in the Middle East. Given that, do you foresee more budget airlines launching in this market?
Our success is not only proof that there is demand, but also that Jazeera Airways has made against all odds – being the Middle East’s first private airline. That’s the success of Jazeera Airways; we broke a 50-year monopoly in Kuwait and in the process we upgraded the travel experience in the country overnight.
Now travellers in Kuwait can book and pay online, or book via sms or the call centre and simply pay at the bank, and can book and pay through travel agents and still get all the benefits of online booking through their trusted agent. 
Furthermore, unlike other airlines that only offer seat reservation for first and business class travellers, all our travellers can reserve their seats at the time of the booking rather than the day of the flight. That is our true achievement, equal service to everyone. Our success is not just about launching an airline based on a low-cost business model. Its about the change we created in the travelling experience in Kuwait, it’s about the way we brought independence to travellers and travel agents. This is the success of Jazeera Airways, that’s why we are the ‘wings of freedom’.

How do you plan to stay ahead of the pack?
We have built our airline on three pillars that we believe will not only put us ahead of the competition but also at the forefront of advance in the industry. Those three pillars are technology, efficiency and good people. And we are glad that we have all three in Jazeera Airways.
When it comes to technology we have invested in a strong IT backbone to streamline processes both on the operational side and on the commercial side. With regards to efficiency we are a private airline that does not have the bureaucracy known to exist within government owned airline. In stead we have quick decision making and implementation procedures. We also pride ourselves on our operational efficiency standards we have put in place. For example we have achieved a 94 per cent on-time performance so far this year, that’s a full 10 per cent higher than the industry standard whether in the region or world wide. 
As for the team, we have multinational team of 277 unique individuals from 34 countries, all experts in their fields with regional and international track records.
All these factors combined produce our competitive edge. A technology empowered team supported by a proactive management working together to achieve one goal: empowering travelers, every day through low fares.

Jazeera Airways has been concentrating on short-haul destinations so far, any plans to go long-haul?
The success of our business model rests on short-haul travel.  We are currently focused on meeting the objectives of our current business plan and we are on track. But rest assured that if and when we do... we will also challenge the long-haul market, just like we challenged the short-medium-haul travel.