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No frills market heads east

Regional airlines will face stiff competition when low cost airline menaJet takes off later this year.

Middle East travellers could see a drop in prices of up to 80% when menaJet, the first regional no frills airline, begins operating from Sharjah International Airport in December 2003.

The airline, which has an equity base of US $50 million, will initially run with two Airbus A320’s, each carrying a single-class configuration of 162 seats. However, the owners are keeping their options open on whether the aircraft should be leased or bought.

“Every region in the world has its own no-frills airlines. It’s time for Middle East travellers to have the benefits of low fares, transparency and a friendly efficient service,” said Mazen Hajjar, general manager, menaJet.

Hajjar added that the airline would focus on becoming a safe carrier in the mould of other tried and tested models such as Southwest Airlines in the US and Ryanair in Europe.

Although at this stage landing slots have yet to be confirmed, officials from menajet stressed that flights would be no longer than 3-5 hours and would concentrate solely on the intra-Arab market.

Al Zamil, one of Saudi Arabia’s leading business groups and the Bahrain-based Gulf Finance House (GHF), jointly own the venture.

“Sharjah was chosen because we could fast-track the entire registration process. The authorities were willing to provide all the facilities, and Sharjah offers an ideal base from which we can target our likely clientele,” said Esam Janahi, GFH's chief executive. “We have tested the business model to the extent that we are sure that menaJet can prove a successful venture.”

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