Airlines back in flow

Across the region, the Gulf’s airline industry has much to be proud of. I HAVE been accused many times of being obsessed with the world’s biggest airlines: it is a fair point: this magazine has been a champion of the successes of Emirates Airline, Etihad, Gulf Air — and more recently Virgin Atlantic. But having spent several days at the Dubai Air Show, I must take my hat off to the smaller players — the tough talking, hard working, unsung heroes in the industry — especially in this region.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  December 4, 2005

Airlines back in flow|~||~||~|Across the region, the Gulf’s airline industry has much to be proud of. I HAVE been accused many times of being obsessed with the world’s biggest airlines: it is a fair point: this magazine has been a champion of the successes of Emirates Airline, Etihad, Gulf Air — and more recently Virgin Atlantic. But having spent several days at the Dubai Air Show, I must take my hat off to the smaller players — the tough talking, hard working, unsung heroes in the industry — especially in this region. Air Arabia is a shining example to most: Sharjah’s low-cost airline saw revenues of US$59 million last year, and according to Aviation Business magazine, is now at break even. If true, this is an amazing achievement given it has only been in operation for two years. Equally impressive, but less known, is Atlas Blue. Reports suggest that the airline, which specialises in services from Morocco to Europe (and is 100% owned by Royal Air Maroc) is on target to hit US$123 million of revenues next year, with profits coming in at US$1 million. The same magazine suggests that by 2012, profits will be in the region of US$10 million. Success may also be just around the corner for the likes of Jordan Air, which hopes to be operating 23 aircraft within five years. The more recognised Royal Jordanian is also profitable, and significantly, has been invited to join the oneworld alliance. And lets’ not forget Jazeera Airways, which after a troubled launch period has had a smooth take off. It is now over four years since the dreadful events of 9/11, after which the entire airline industry across the globe moved straight into recession. Thousands of workers were put out of work, new plane orders cancelled, passenger numbers plummeted and some proposed new airlines never even got off the ground. But the industry has stood firm, improved its quality of service and the introduction of low-cost carriers has brought down prices. And the future looks even brighter. It comes down to price, and prices must — and will — come down. Right now, both the industry and consumer have much to celebrate. ||**||Iraq sinks into the abyss|~||~||~|IT HAS not been a good week in Iraq. In fact, it never is. The trial of Saddam Hussein is already turning into a farce, with endless stoppages and trivial arguments. Former prime minister Iyad Allawi has claimed that in terms of human rights abuses, the country is actually worse than under Saddam. That may be an exaggeration, but there is no escaping the fact that the present Iraqi leadership is presiding over many cases of torture, detention and execution. Just like Saddam. More worryingly however, are the claims in this week’s Time magazine that over the past year, the number of active insurgents in Iraq has stayed at 20,000. This despite the US forces regularly launching attacks against them. And, the magazine claims, that for every active insurgent, there are six more supporting them — bringing the current level to 120,000. Which is a serious match for the US army. This makes the hopes of a US withdrawal, and of long-term peace, look further away than ever before. ||**||Top of the Bill|~||~||~|TWO WEEKS ago we reported how former US president Bill Clinton was earning the nickname “Thrill Bill”. As we explained, he is now the biggest draw on the international stage. He may be earning over US$100,000 per appearance, but seems to be worth every cent. Crowds flock to listen to him wherever he goes, and more significantly, current world leaders appear to hang on his every word. He has a better chance of achieving peace, bringing stability and distributing aid in some parts of the world than either president George W. Bush or British prime minister Tony Blair. How has he managed this? During his time in office, Clinton was actually impeached by his own senators over the Monica Lewinsky affair. He became a lame duck president, and an embarrassment to the White House. Today, he is an international hero. There is hope for George W. Bush yet! ||**||

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