Arabesk to be finalised without Oman Air

The number of airlines participating in Arabesk fell in the final month after Oman Air announced that it was pulling out.

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By  Neil Denslow Published  January 2, 2006

Seven Arab airlines were due to appoint a governing body for Arabesk, the AACO and Sabre-led networking cooperation programme, at a special meeting in Cairo last month. However, the number of participating airlines fell in the final month after Oman Air announced that it was pulling out. The project, which kicked off in 2004, initially involved six Arab carriers — EgyptAir, Gulf Air, Middle East Airlines, Oman Air, Royal Jordanian and Saudi Arabian Airlines. Tunisair and Yemenia raised the number of participants to eight in July 2005. The aim of Arabesk is to firstly optimise the networks of each carrier using Sabre Airline Solutions technologies. In the second stage, the airlines will then look for network synergies and benefits that could be gained through their individually optimised networks. In the third and final stage, the participants will look for advantages that could be gained through modifying their timetables, thereby creating an optimised network on a regional level. Even before the project was signed off, a number of bilateral codeshare deals had been agreed, including Gulf Air’s cooperation with both EgyptAir and Saudia, for instance. However, two weeks before Arabesk was due to be finalised, Oman Air pulled out of the project. The carrier stated that it was too small to benefit from Arabesk and that its network was already optimised, with high aircraft utilisation rates and through its close co-operation with Gulf Air. However, there were also complaints that the lack of open skies in the region would hinder the successful implementation of the project. “To get the benefits of Arabesk you need to develop trunk routes between the airlines’ hubs,” said a senior Oman Air manger. “However, that is just not possible in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, and even Jordan is not as open as they say,” he continued. However, AACO contends that Arabesk will produce network benefits, pointing to the fact that the seven airlines have pushed ahead with the project and that more want to join. “Others want to join in, but we want to stick with seven for now,” said Abdul Wahab Teffaha, AACO’s secretary general. “We had no intention of reaching eight members originally, and now we want to get through the governance and IT stages [before more members join].” In terms of the impact that the region’s closed skies would have on the viability of Arabesk, Teffaha stated that it would not cause short term problems, even if there may be longer terms issues. “You can change schedules and align schedules without open skies,” he commented. “However, the regulatory aspect is one of the issues that the founding members will need to address,” he added. “The initial phase will last three years though,” he continued. “And, it will be a gradual process. Nothing will happen until it is totally legal within the regulatory framework,” Teffaha added.

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