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Budget carrier to expand operations from Egypt hub.

Region's first budget airline has stayed profitable in tough climate

Dubai On its seventh anniversary, low cost carrier Air Arabia is on the cusp of starting operations from its third hub in Egypt and launching another airline in Jordan while it pushes for stronger growth at its home base Sharjah.

The Arab region's first budget airline has shaken up the aviation industry with its low fares and staggering growth. It has withstood a sceptical market and thrived during an economic downturn. Despite skyrocketing fuel prices the airline remained profitable.

In an interview with Gulf News, Air Arabia chief executive Abdul Ali said the philosophy behind having multiple hubs is to connect the Arab region in one seamless service through one airline.

"The more airports we can get into, the more hubs we can get into, the better for the customer. We are Air Arabia and we can [through multiple hubs] serve the Arab world properly," he said.

In the UAE's relatively mature market, Ali expects a growth of 7-8 per cent in the next two years.

Meanwhile, new hubs in Egypt and Morocco will see a significant upsurge in operations.

"A growth of 30 per cent is normal given that we're still small, young and it is the first year of operations," he said.

In winter, the airline will fly from several secondary airports in Morocco to Europe's main tourism destinations. Next week it will begin service to Cologne, Germany and later to Paris from Udja, Morocco.

New delivery

The airline will receive seven new aircraft by the end of next year and place three or four of them in the Moroccan market. "In a year, as a new market, as a new business, I think it has done very well for us," Ali said.

Airline officials are negotiating to fly to African destinations, but are facing difficulties.

"Once the entire traffic rights and aero-political discussions with Africa progresses, I think, we'll be putting in more flights," he said, adding that it is currently in discussions to fly to two airports in West Africa.

With an open skies policy in Morocco, the airline can fly to any European destination and has plans to service a number of German cities.

Operations out of Alexandria will start in a few weeks after the opening of a new terminal in Burj Al Airport. "Now the facility is much better. Once we move into that, we will be able to support the business with more aircraft," Ali said.

The latest in its string of ventures, a budget carrier in Jordan is still in the process of documentations that could take a few weeks, according to Ali.

This week the carrier took delivery of the first of the 44 A320s it has on order. These will be shuffled as and where the demand requires, between the UAE, Morocco, Egypt and Jordan. The hub in Casablanca was set up to serve West Africa and the westernmost European destinations. Its base in Egypt is targeted at the eastern region closest to it.


Spreading wings

Air Arabia will receive seven new aircraft by the end of next year and place three to four of them in the Moroccan market.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:6MORO
Date:Oct 28, 2010
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