MENA Airline Report 2006

As the aviation industry experiences a boom in the Middle East and North African region, Aviation Business reviews the movers and shakers of 2006.

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By  Barbara Cockburn Published  December 19, 2006

|~||~||~|AFRIQIYAH AIRWAYS WHERE BASED: Tripoli, Libya Established: April 2001 and began scheduled services December 2001 Fleet: Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed to acquire 6 Airbus A320s and 3 A319s. An option on 5 A320s, an option on 3 A330-200s. Fleet began with Boeing 737-400s. Owned by: Libyan government About: The airplane orders are part of the airline’s expansion strategy. The new A320s will fly to its international network, covering 17 destinations in North, West and Central Africa and the Middle East, as well as to European destinations such as Paris (France), Brussels (Belgium), Geneva (Switzerland), London (UK), Rome (Italy) and Amsterdam (Netherlands). Afriqiyah’s A319s will carry 124 passengers, while the A320 will seat 150 in comfortable two class configurations. The A330s will serve the long haul operations on routes to Southern Africa, Asia and Europe and will have a three-class configuration with 253 seats. Web: www.afriqiyah.aero AIR ALGERIE Where based: Algiers, Algeria Established: 1947 Fleet: 5 Airbus A330-200, 4 on order (operated in the region, Europe and US and Canada as of 2007), 5 Boeing 737-600, 5 on order, 10 Boeing 737-800 and 8 on order, 3 Boeing 767-300, Boeing 777-200ER 2 on order, serving domestic destinations include 8 ATR 72-500, 7 Cessna 208B Grand Caravan and 2 Raytheon Beech King Air 100 Owned by: Joint stock company with capital of US$393 million About: The airline covers a network of 96,000km. More than three million passengers and nearly 20,000 tonnes of cargo are carried every year. It operates flights to 37 towns in 24 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Expansion plans: From next year and 2008 the airline will begin operating two Boeing 777-200ER for international flights including new destinations, Beijing, Montreal and New York. In June, Air Algerie introduced flights between French regional airport Grenoble and Constantine in the north east of Algeria. It now operates a weekly flight on Mondays using a Boeing 737-800. It is also planned that the airline will introduce a nonstop service from Algiers’ Houari Boumediene International to Montreal’s Pierre Trudeau International starting from next month. The route will be serviced by an Airbus 330-200. Web: www.airalgerie.dz Air Arabia Where based: Sharjah International Airport, UAE Established: February 2003 and began operations in October 2003 Fleet: 6 Airbus A320-200 Owned by: Sharjah Civil Aviation Department (50%), Sharjah Airport International Free Trade Zone Authority (SAIF Zone) (10%), and other founders include Sharjah-based and Bahrain-based strategic investors (40%). About: A low cost airline that flies throughout the Middle East and to the Indian subcontinent. Air Arabia flies to Yemen, UAE, four destinations in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Oman, Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Armenia, Bahrain, India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Sudan. Starting with a single flight to Bahrain in October 2003, Air Arabia today flies to over 30 destinations across 20 countries, including recent additions like Chennai and Thiruvanthapuram in India, Latakia in Syria and Kathmandu in Nepal carrying over two million passengers. Current Air Arabia destinations include Afghanistan (Kabul), Armenia (Yerevan), Bahrain (Manama), Egypt (Alexandria, Assiut and Luxor), India (Chennai, Jaipur, Kochi, Mumbai, Nagpur and Thiruvananthapuram), Iran (Tehran), Jordan (Amman), Kazakhstan (Astana and Almaty), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Damman, Jeddah and Riyadh), Kuwait, Lebanon (Beirut), Nepal (Kathmandu), Oman (Muscat), Qatar (Doha), Sri Lanka (Colombo), Sudan (Khartoum), Syria (Aleppo and Damascus), Turkey (Istanbul), UAE (Sharjah) and Yemen (Sana’a). CEO Adel Ali, speaking to Aviation Business at AACO’s annual general meeting last month, said that 2006 has so far been a good year for the airline, although, he conceded that the issue of fuel prices had been a challenge. “I would say that 2006 has been good for all the GCC carriers to make profits and next year promises to be good, although maybe not as buoyant,” he said. Expansion plans: The airline expects to up its fleet to 8 A320-200 by the end of 2006. Web: www.airarabia.com Air Cairo Where based: Cairo International Airport Established: 2004 and replaced Shorouk Airways which folded in 2002 Fleet: 1 Airbus A321-200, 1 Airbus A320-200. 2 A320s on order deliveries from September this year. Owned by: Owned by EgyptAir (60%) and Ibrahim Kamel, a private investor. About: The low cost airline is expected to receive a number of ATRs by the end of this year to expand on EgyptAir’s domestic flights. Air Cairo currently flies two Airbus A321s - leased from Egyptair - on charter flights to Europe, as well as within the Middle East. Deliveries of Air Cairo’s A318s were planned to begin in the third quarter of 2006. They will seat up to 120 passengers in an all-economy layout, and be powered by CFM International CFM56-5 engines. “We needed a small aircraft to match the passenger traffic that we have on our domestic and international routes, and the Airbus A318 combines the benefits of large jet passenger comfort with attractive small-jet economics,” says Air Cairo chairman Kamal Zaki. “We will also benefit from the Airbus A318’s commonality with the Airbus 320 Family aircraft in the EgyptAir fleet.” AIR LIBYA TIBESTI Where based: Tripoli, Libya Established: 1996 Fleet: Consists of various Russian made aircraft including Antonovs, Ilyushins, Tupolevs, Yakovlevs About: Domestic flights include Benghazi, Ghadames, Kufra, Sirte and Tripoli. These domestic flights support oil field operations as well as providing locust control and agricultural spraying services. Internationally, the carrier serves El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur in Sudan. Atlas Blue Where based: Marrakech, Morocco Established: Established May 2004 began operations July 2004 Fleet: 1 Airbus A321-200, 6 Boeing 737-400s, 1 Boeing 737-800 Owned by: Royal Air Maroc (99.99%) and private investors (0.01%) About: Flies to 13 destinations. Another 5 Boeing 737-400s were transferred from Royal Air Maroc to expand services to Belgium, Germany, Italy and the UK. Web: www.atlas-blue.com Buraq Air Where based: Tripoli, Libya Established: 2000 Fleet: 18 About: It operates domestic scheduled and charter services. The airline’s hub is Tripoli-Mitiga airport, which, although smaller than Tripoli International Airport, is much closer to the city centre. Some of Buraq’s fleet recently appeared on the list of unsafe airlines published by the EU. It has now, however, been withdrawn from the blacklist because it no longer conducts the cargo activity which led to its original inclusion. Expansion plans: Four destinations in Europe and five in the Middle East. Web: www.buraqair.com Egypt Air Where based: Cairo, Egypt Established: 1932 and began operations 1933 Fleet: 36 Owned by: EgyptAir Holding Company (EHC) About: EgyptAir Holding Company (EHC) announced plans for a new subsidiary flying small, mid-range planes on national and some regional routes. EHC also plans to sign a deal with Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer to buy six mid-range EMB-170 aircraft to be used as the EgyptAir Express fleet, with an option to purchase six more. EgyptAir will launch a regional jet division in April 2007 at its 75th anniversary. Web: www.egyptair.com.eg/docs/home.asp Emirates Airline Where based: Dubai, UAE Established: 1985 Fleet: 100 - Emirates has ordered 45 Airbus A380 aircraft, it has also purchased and two are to be leased from International Lease and Finance Corporation. Two freighter A380-800 were ordered for Emirates SkyCargo. This was changed to the passenger model in May this year. Owned by: The Emirates Group and the Dubai government. About: It flies to 85 destinations on all continents - including Middle East, Far East, Europe, China, North America, India, South America. The airline has ordered 45 A380s in a deal worth US$13 billion and despite the delays blighting the Airbus superjumbo, Emirates is not canceling the order. It’s set to receive its first A380 in 2008.Tim Clark, Emirates’ president (PICTURED) said the airline would look into plugging the two-year gap caused by the A380 delays, by leasing 5 to 7 Boeing 777-300ERs Web: www.emirates.com Etihad Airways Where based: Abu Dhabi, UAE Established: 2003 Fleet: 24 Owned by: Wholly owned by the government of Abu Dhabi About: It flies to 34 destinations to Middle East, Asia, Europe, North America and India. The airline placed orders for four Airbus A380s. It also purchased 20 other Airbus aircraft, including four A340-500, to be delivered this year, four Airbus A340-600 (delivery from 2007) and 12 A330-200 (delivery from 2006). The new aircraft will be deployed to further develop its expanding network in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and North America. Reuters reported in October that Etihad will seek compensation in the form of cash or equipment from Airbus over the additional ten month delay to its troubled A380 project. The airline will now have to wait until the second half of 2008 to take delivery of the four A380s it has on order. Expansion plans: Etihad is one of the fastest growing airlines in the region with a current US$8 billion order for 29 new aircraft. It has far reaching plans to extend its international route network and passenger levels are expected to grow by 150% from 1.2 million in 2005 to 3 million by the end of this year, with equally strong cargo growth. Web: www.etihadairways.com Gulf Air Where based: Bahrain International Airport Established: 1950 Fleet: 34 Owned by: Bahrain and Oman governments About: The airline ditched Abu Dhabi as a hub following the decision in September last year by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to withdraw Gulf Air and establish its own airline – Etihad. Gulf Air now operates on a dual hub basis between Bahrain and Muscat airports.In April this year the governments of Bahrain and Thailand signed an open skies agreement which will double its frequency. In October 2006, James Hogan left his position as president and chief executive officer saying his “job is done”. He told Aviation Business that he had “reduced the airline’s debt dramatically. As you know, debt follows the number of aircraft. It’s just unfortunate that the fuel wasn’t hedged.” Hogan has since taken on the role of CEO at rival airline Etihad Airways. In his place is at Gulf Air is acting CEO Ahmed Al Hammadi. He said: “We have been reviewing hedging options and believe that an effective mechanism will allow us to mitigate risk. However, if the time is not right and if the price of oil remains at present levels, it is not appropriate to hedge.” Expansion plans: Hammadi says: “It will be important for us to work at minimising our cost base, while continuing to maximise revenue and drive growth in what continues to be a very competitive market.” Web: www.gulfairco.com Iraqi Airways Where based: Baghdad, Iraq Established: 1945 Fleet: Four Owned by: Air Iraq Company About: Following the Iraq war, in 2003, the airline resumed international flights. The rights to the Iraq Airways name was transferred to a separate company, Air Iraq Company, who will build a new airline out of the historic brand and protect it from the legal problems relating to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Operations began in 2004 with flights between Baghdad and Ammam and Basra. Web: www.airiraqco.com Jazeera Airways Where based: Kuwait City, Kuwait Established: 2005 Fleet: Four Airbus A320-200 (plus six on order) Owned by: 100% owned by private investors and the Boodai Group About: A low cost carrier operating within the Middle East and India. The 2004 Emiree Decree No.89 established Jazeera Airways as first airline to enter the newly liberalised industry. Jazeera Airways raised its capital of KD 10 million (US$35 million) through an initial public offering in Kuwait. The airline is the first and only privately owned airline in Kuwait and the Middle East, and one of the few airlines in the Middle East built on a low fares business model. Web: www.jazeeraairways.com Kuwait Airways Where based: Kuwait International Airport Established: 1953 and began operations in 1954 Fleet: 18 Owned by: Kuwait government About: It flies to the Middle East, Far East, Europe, Asia, North America. Although the government has liberalised the aviation market, chairman and managing director of Kuwait Airways Corporation Sheikh Talal Mubarak Abudullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah is a man with his hands tied because there is no further progress about the airline’s privatisation, but he says: “Liberalising the market was a positive move, but we would like to see investment from local industry though the law says that we are not allowed to have foreign investment and the reason for this is because we are a corporation and do not come under commercial law, we are a government-owned entity.” Kuwait Airways is not in direct competition with other Kuwaiti airlines because we target the long haul market. He says that so far this financial year the airline has made losses amounting to 30%. “We anticipate further losses for the 2007 and 2008 period and are projecting a marginal profit provided the fuel prices don’t increase.” Expansion plans: Next summer the airline plans to extend its network to Malaga and Casablanca, Canada, Australia and China. Sheikh Talal Mubarak Abudullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah says that the airline is planning to fund, through debt, the upgrading of its business and first class and its inflight entertainment systems. The government will not fund it because it refuses to. “The government will not change its mind. We have to operate on our own, like a private company and not rely on the government for support. But we will lose out if we do not improve our services,” he said. Web: www.kuwait-airways.com Libyan Arab Airlines Where based: Tripoli International Airport Established: 1965 Fleet: 15 About: National flag carrier of Libya, it operates scheduled international services to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. In April 1999, when international sanctions against Libya ended, Libyan Arab Airlines resumed its first international route to Amman, Jordan. The carrier has been negotiating with aircraft manufacturers as part of plans to add 25 new jet planes to its fleet. The planes would carry between 100 and 350 passengers and delivery would be by mid-April 2007. The extra jets will allow the airline to expand services to cover most of Africa, many European cities, as well as connections to China, India, Pakistan, Japan, the Philippines, Canada and the U.S. The primary reason for expansion is to replace the airline’s ageing fleet and fend off increased competition. A programme is also in place to increase personnel and technical capacity. Four cargo planes, with a capacity of about 100 metric tonnes, would also be purchased under the plan. Web: www.ln.aero Middle East Airways Where based: Beirut, Lebanon Established: 1945 and began operations in 1946 Fleet: 9. 6 Airbus A321-231 and 3 Airbus A330-243 Owned: MEA is to float 10% to 20% of its shares in the Beirut Stock Exchange (BSE) as part of long-term plans to fully privatise the airline. About: The airline flies to Asia, Europe and Africa and within the Middle East. Expansion plans: The airline will next year join the SkyTeam Alliance as an associate member through its partner Air France. The airline is to introduce self checkin kiosks at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport and launch the regional Alliance Arabesk with six other Arab carriers. Web: www.mea.com.lb/MEA/English Oman Air Where based: Muscat, Oman Established: 1981 and began operations in 1993 Fleet: 10 aircraft Owned by: 41.7% is owned by individuals, 33.8% by the Oman government and 24.5% by private Omani companies. About: Oman Air was formed as a result of the former Gulf Air Light Aircraft division and Oman International Services, as Oman Aviation Services. Hassan Al Lawati, country manager, at Oman Air said that the airline is playing a major role in making Muscat an important traffic hub in the Middle East. “This new Amman service will consequently result in boosting the economical and tourism industries in both our brotherly nations Oman and Jordan. Oman has tourism potential and the national carrier is expanding its marketing and sales efforts to more destinations in the Middle East to support not only the citizens of the two countries, but the growing number of expatriate travellers seeking new and exotic holiday destinations. "This is only a stride towards a sequence of upgrading our operations with the object of an increase in the near future,” a statement said. The airline, which began operating only one aircraft for its flights to Salalah, has now grown to an international airline ready to face all challenges, he says. The airline aims to improve services, technology and customer satisfaction. Oman Air operates direct flights from its Muscat hub to Dubai, Bahrain, Kuwait, Cairo, Beirut and Amman in the Middle East. It also flies to six destinations in India - Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Kochi, Thiruvanathapuram and Chennai. Oman Air’s domestic services in the Sultanate connect Muscat with Khasab and Salalah. It also operates code-share flights to London, Frankfurt, Bangkok, Riyadh, Kuala Lumpur, Jeddah and Abu Dhabi. Expansion plans: Oman Air begins flights this month to Amman with three non-stop flights a week. Web: www.omanair.aero/wy Palestinian Airlines Where based: Gaza, Palestine, Yasser Arafat International Airport Established: 1995 and began operations in 1997 Fleet: 1 Boeing 727-200 and 2 Fokker 50 Owned by: Wholly owned by the Palestinian Authority About: It operates scheduled international services from Gaza to the Middle East and North Africa and pilgrim charter services to Jeddah. Web: www.palairlines.com Qatar Airways Where based: Doha, Qatar Established: 1993 and began operation in 1994 Fleet: Airbus A300s, A 319s, A320s, A321s, A330s, A340s, A350s (60 on order), A380 (two on order, two options), Boeing 777 (20 on order) Owned by: It was originally owned by members of the state’s royal family but was relaunched in April 1997 by a new management team headed by CEO Akbar Al Baker. It is 50% owned by the government of Qatar and 50% by private investors. About: Qatar Airways is the official airline for the this year’s Asian Games held this month in Doha. Expansion plans: Last month the airline announced seven new routes to be launched next year, Lagos (Nigeria), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Denpasar (Bali), Ho Chi Minh city (Vietnam) and New York (USA).Two other routes are to be launched in 2007 and yet to be confirmed. Last month the airline introduced flights to Madrid, and in August began flights to Milan and Moscow. The Doha to Sydney and Melbourne routes were rejected in May by the Australian government. Qatar Airways is to fly to North America non-stop, using new A340-600 HGW aircraft. Moreover, the airline announced a new livery change which would be introduced to the A340-600 HGW aircraft and gradually applied to the existing fleet over a period of 12 months. It has increased frequencies to several destinations and has already launched nonstop flights to Madrid, replacing the Rome-Madrid sector. The Doha-Berlin flights will soon be upgraded to widebody aircraft instead of the current A319LR with an increase in weekly frequency. Qatar Airways has hinted at direct Doha-Sao Paulo, Brazil flights starting sometime next year. Web: www.qatarairways.com Royal Air Maroc Where based: Casablanca, Morocco Established: The company was founded in 1957 and began flying international routes in 1957 Fleet: 41 aircraft Owned by: Moroccan government owns 95.5% and Air France owns 2.86%. The government intends to partially privatise the airline through the sale of a 25% holding. About: Last year an open-sky agreement was signed between Morocco and the EU. This means that Royal Air Maroc faces competition from the low cost sector that aim to profit from routes between Western Europe and Morocco. A further challenge arises from the extremely high cost of kerosene and the fact that the company may have to drop some of its unprofitable domestic and international routes. The current construction of a second terminal at the Mohammed V airport will provide RAM with more growth opportunities. Web: www.royalairmaroc.com Royal Jordanian Where based: Queen Alia International Airport, Amman, Jordan Established: 1963 Fleet: 24, a mix of Airbus, Bombardier and Embraer About: Royal Jordanian joins alliance Oneworld in the first quarter of 2007. The airline in October recorded a 19% increase to 145,000 passengers from 121,000, the previous year. The RJ fleet of 24 aircraft operated 2077 flights in October this year, averaging 67 flights daily. In October 2005, the airline operated 1570 flights, an average of 51 flights a day. This represents a 32% increase in the number of flights this year. Royal Jordanian transported a record number of passengers in August 2006, carrying 223,000 travellers, registering a 15% increase over August 2005, a statement said. The airline attributed the growing demand for travel this year to the overall improvement of on ground and in air services, particularly after the introduction of the six new Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft, offering convenience and entertainment. Web: www.rj.com/home/index.asp Saudi Arabian Airlines Where based: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Fleet: 131: 11 Airbus A300-600, 7 Boeing 737-200, 7 Boeing 747-100B, 1 Boeing 747-200F, 9 Boeing 747-300, 5 Boeing 747-400, 1 Boeing 747SP, 23 Boeing 777-200ER, 8 Embraer 170-LR (plus 7 on order), 4 McDonnell Douglas MD-11F (cargo), 29 McDonnell Douglas MD-90-30, 1 De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 300. Owned by: In preparation for privatisation, which was agreed in 2006, the airline is currently restructuring to allow non-core units including catering, ground handling services and maintenance as well as the Prince Sultan Flight Academy in Jeddah, to transform into commercial units and profit centres. In April last year the Saudi government indicated that the airline may also lose its monopoly on domestic services.About: The airline operates domestic and international scheduled flights to 70 destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. The airline’s main operational base is at Jeddah-King Abdulaziz International Airport. Other major hubs are Riyadh-King Khalid International Airport (RUH), and Dammam-King Fahad International Airport (DMM). Dammam airport was opened for commercial use in 1999. Saudi Arabian Airlines achieved operational profits in 2002, which doubled in 2003 but the profits are primarily due to over a billion riyal on deferred income amortised annually in the income statement courtesy of the 70 aircraft gifted to the airline by the government. In 2004 the airline carried over 15 million passengers and recorded a 14% rise in profits. Expansion plans: The airline plans to fly to Manchester, Sydney and Toronto. Web: www.saudiairlines.com/index2.jsp Syrian Arab airlines (or Syrianair) Where based: Damscus, Syria Established: The airline was established by the government of Syria in October 1961 to succeed Syrian Airways which had been established in 1946. The new Syrian Arab Airlines took over the routes previously controlled by Syrian Airways and United Arab Airlines. Syrian Airways was formed following the merger of SyrianAirways and Misrair in 1961 during the union of Egypt and Syria. Fleet: 33 consisting of 6 Airbus A320-200, 6 Boeing 727-200, 2 Boeing 747SP, 2 Antonov An-24B, 6 Antonov An-26, 1 Ilyushin Il-76, 3 Ilyushin Il-76M, 1 Tupolev Tu-134B, 1 Ilyushin Il-96-300 on order, 2 Ilyushin Il-96-400 on order, 5 Yakolev Yak-40, 1 Yakolev Yak-40K Owned by: Syrian government About: It operates international services to 40 destinations in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North Africa. Expansion plans: In August, Syrianair began negotiations to purchase three Ilyushin-96-400 long range aircraft and four Tupolev Tu-204 medium range aircraft. Web: www.syriaair.com Tunis Air Where based: Tunis-Carthage International Airport Established: 1948 Fleet: Three Airbus A300-600R, three Airbus A319-100 (1 on order), 12 Airbus A320-200, 1 Boeing 727-200, 2 Boeing 737-200, 1 Boeing 737-200C, 4 Boeing 737-500, 7 Boeing 737-600 About: It operates scheduled international services to European, African and Middle Eastern destinations. Tunisair flies to 49 destinations and 80 destinations with charter flight service to Europe, Africa and Middle East. Web: www.tunisair.com.tn Yemenia Where based: Sanaa International Airport, Yemen, with a hub at Aden Airport Established: 1961 and began operations in 1962 Fleet: 12 Owned by: Government of Yemen (51%) and the government of Saudi Arabia (49%) About: It flies to 30 destinations in Africa, Europe, Middle East and Asia. Expansion plans: Six Airbus A350s are on order (with option for four more). The first aircraft is due in 2014. Web: www.yemenia.com||**||

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