Low cost frenzy

Air Arabia begins operations to Sudan, but competition is hotting up in the region’s low cost carrier market after another airline claims it will launch from Dubai in June.

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By  John Irish Published  April 4, 2004

Passengers across the region could soon see competition in the low cost airline field after a new pretender, SmartJet, claimed it would begin operations from Dubai at the start of June. Speaking to the UAE Arabic daily newspaper, Al Khaleej, Hassan Al Jayushi, director of CityLink, the company behind the project, said SmartJet has an equity base of US $20 million. The airline claims it will initially fly with one Boeing 757 to capitals across the Arab world with a view to increasing the number of aircraft to six by the end of the first year of operations. Expansion plans will include Europe and Asia after the first year. According to Al Jayushi further details on investors and routes will be revealed towards the end of May when the airline is officially unveiled. It remains uncertain whether SmartJet has approval from Dubai or whether the airline has acquired its operating certificate. However, Al Jayushi claims he has acquired permission from the airport’s free zone, although quite what that means is unclear. SmartJet is not the first attempt to launch a privately run low cost airline. The Bahrain-Saudi backed MenaJet announced plans last May to begin operations from Sharjah at the end of 2003. However, following the launch of Sharjah’s Air Arabia those plans were shelved until the first quarter of 2004 with the airline now basing itself in Beirut. An announcement on the launch date is expected in the coming month. Another venture TransGulf Express was also put on hold. Whatever the outcome with SmartJet, clearly Air Arabia’s aggressive expansion and growing popularity will make it difficult for other low cost carriers to break into the market. However, should SmartJet gain a Dubai slot then things could prove interesting. Meanwhile, Air Arabia began services to the Sudanese capital Khartoum on April 02. “We are pleased to start operations to Khartoum; this is the third North African destination for Air Arabia with flights to Alexandria and Assiut in Egypt launched in January,” said Adel Ali, Air Arabia’s CEO. “In addition, with the arrival of our third aircraft last month, we are further positioned to service customers throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Indian Subcontinent region.” Flights from Sharjah to Khartoum will operate two days a week - every Tuesday and Saturday at 09:00 with arrival at 12:15 local time. The flight will do a direct turn-around on both of these days and depart for Sharjah at 13:00 with arrival at 17:50 local time. A one-way fare from Sharjah to Khartoum starts at Dhs299 ($81)- excluding government taxes, which vary from one country to another. Similar fares are available from Khartoum to Sharjah.

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