Here to stay

Low cost airlines appear to be catching on with the region's travelling public. Will government flag carriers simply ignore them, or are they already plotting their responses?

  • E-Mail
By  David Ingham Published  March 5, 2006

|~||~||~|Like it or not, no frills, low cost, low fare, or budget airlines (whatever you want to call them) are catching on with the region’s travelling public. In only its second full year of operation, Air Arabia has reached profitability, an impressive feat in itself, but what is even more striking is the company’s ambition. The airline’s CEO, Adel Ali, says any airport within four hours of Sharjah is a potential destination for Air Arabia. He reckons there are around two hundred such airports, and although Air Arabia will not fly to all of them, Ali believes there is enough pent up demand to keep the airline’s expansion humming along for the next five years. Over in Saudi Arabia, the country’s first budget airline is set for a Summer takeoff. Sama aims to first establish itself in the Saudi market and then start flights from Saudi Arabia to other regional countries. Sama has 30 investors, including big names such as Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal and Olayan Group. A couple of days ago, the Kuwaiti startup Jazeera Airways sent out a press release saying it had carried 100,000 people in its first four months of operations. It aims to carry one million passengers in 2006 and has ordered eight A320s to add to its current two. One of the striking things about all of this is that the incumbent flag carriers have pretty much sat by and watched low budget aviation take off in the region. Their explanation for missing out is that they are focused on being full service airlines serving international routes. Fair enough, but at what point will government flag carriers decide that budget aviation is too good an opportunity to miss? Although I have issues with Air Arabia (it isn’t always as cheap as it looks and I’ve been informed of schedule changes at the last minute), I and many others continue to use it because we like the choice and greater value for money that it offers. So will flag carriers simply ignore low cost airlines? Will they wait until Air Arabia hits the billion dirham turnover mark (likely to happen in the next five years) before they formulate a response? Or are the senior managers of government flag carriers sitting in a room right now and plotting their entry into the budget aviation market?||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code