New airline seeks entry to UAE skies

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Northern emirate of Fujairah plans to establish itself as a regional and international hub of tourism. Photo - Arabiansupplychain.com

The UAE skies, long been dominated by the airlines from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, are set to welcome a Fujairah-based airline as soon as it gets untangled by some red tape issues.

Officials of Fujairah’s first commercial airline said on Monday they will miss the planned January launch date due to bureaucratic hurdles. The airline plans on starting its commercial operations in the first quarter of 2012 once it gets the go ahead from the countrys civil aviation authority.

Eastern Express is Fujairahs first passenger airline, and the only commercial carrier to operate out of the northern emirate. The $3.5m venture is supported by three Emirati investors, including the Dubai-based Gargash family.

The carriers CEO, Alex de Vos, told in an interview that while all the relevant paper work is with the office of the GCAA (General Civil Aviation Authority, the delay apparently is due to some glitch which needs to be sorted out.

Whether it is going to be February or March, we dont know. But we said we would launch at the beginning of this year, and at the moment we are still looking at a first quarter start, Eastern Express chief affirmed.

The Fujairah-based carrier is offering return flights to Abu Dhabi with return fares starting from AED 1,200. The airline is said to be using a leased Jetstream 41 aircraft with Saab 340 plane as a back-up. According to the carrier’s CEO, this might be the issue over the delay.

The GCA needs to verify that the aircraft is known to them, the Jetstream 41 is but the Saab 340 is not, so thats additional paperwork from our side to get it approved, de Vos added.

COMPETITION

The carrier has made it clear that would not directly compete with the existing budget or no frills airlines. However, it plans on targeting tourists who are looking to cut back the travel time between different emirates.

The carrier hopes to boost its services later this year to four daily flights, including connections to Abu Dhabis executive Al Bateen airport, and a second route to Doha.

The airline plans to fly to every major city in the GCC over the next five years.The plan is to handle 44,000 passengers annually with a fleet of four aircraft.

DEMAND

I have no intention of paying AED 1,200 to travel between the different emirates, Jeramiah, a teacher based in Fujairah told Arabian Gazette while commenting on staggering ticket prices. I can travel internationally with that kind of money.

Foreign tourists are also skeptic about the tourism aspect of the airlines. I believe the fun in travelling is seeing and experiencing different sights and places, Peter Maverick, an advertising consultant from the UK vacationing in Dubai with his family, said. I would prefer to drive from different destinations and enjoy my vacation rather than hop from airport to airport.

However, the business community is more enthusiastic about the new carrier. This new airline would make business travels much more pleasant and fast, Mohammad, a PR Manager based in Abu Dhabi, told Arabian Gazette.

(Written by Rizana Jahan; Edited by Moign Khawaja)

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