Small wings, Big dreams – Flying with RAK Airways

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Photo – Neville Hopwood

The first time I came to know about RAK Airways was when I was doing some research about the flag carriers of all seven emirates of the UAE. Etihad Airways is the flag carrier of Abu Dhabi, Emirates of Dubai, Air Arabia of Sharjah, and RAK Airways of the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. That’s when I found about this airline and was surprised to know that a developing emirate like Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) has its own flag carrier. I wanted to find out more and headed to its website RAKAirways.com.

There I found out that it is flying passengers from Ras Al Khaimah and other cities of the UAE (via shuttle service) to 9 destinations across the Middle East and South Asia. A bit of further digging revealed that the airline has had a turbulent time during the 2008-09 financial crisis and came to a standstill. However, it was back on track and on the rise once again…like the proverbial Phoenix! My interest in the UAE’s latest aviation success story started to get deeper…

And soon there was an invitation from the RAK Airways in my inbox. “Dear Media Personnel, on behalf of the management of RAK Airways, you are invited to our milestone announcement on 13 August 2012, at Cove Rotana, Ras Al Khaimah,” the invitation read. I had to be there with my colleague Mahsoom.

I attended the event and got to meet John Brayford, the very welcoming and charismatic CEO of RAK Airways. I had a detailed one-to-one chat with him during which he revealed that the airline was relaunched in October 2010 and managed to fill 250,000 seats in 2011 while gradually expanding its destination network to Africa, Middle East and Asia.

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Inspired – Meeting John Brayford and discussing the similarities between RAK Airways and Arabian Gazette. Photo – ArabianGazette.com

Then John made the key announcement which rejoiced everyone present at the Iftar-Dinner at Cove Rotana in Ras Al Khaimah. “‘RAK Airways will embark into a major milestone with its touchdown in the capital, Abu Dhabi on 3 October 2012. With the first flight to Abu Dhabi, RAK Airways will be the first UAE flag carrier to operate domestic flights and the airline’s route network moves up to 10 destinations,” he said amid a thunderous applause by journalists. He added that the launch of flight to Abu Dhabi is an attractive offer to the residents of Ras Al Khaimah and Northern Emirates to establish an aerial connection with the capital which is both time and cost effective.

“So see you on 3 October, Moign,” John said with a bright smile. The invitation was a few weeks away but I was already so excited about the historic moment for RAK Airways and couldn’t wait for it to happen…

It was the evening of Tuesday 2 October and I was driven to Cove Rotana in Ras Al Khaimah – the resort which is the hospitality headquarters of RAK Airways – from Dubai. And it was not only me but a group of journalists from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other cities of the UAE that were invited to be on-board the historic inaugural flight to Abu Dhabi. The place was buzzing with excitement and a sense of adventure and media personnel were having a wonderful time at the restaurant which is literally a few hundred metres away from the beach.

After having a sumptuous meal and heartfelt conversations with fellow journalists and Cove Rotana hospitality staff members, it was time to head to my sea-facing room and get some rest before waking up early and getting ready for the special occasion…

After a short nap, I woke up at 04:15 by the reminder call made by Cove Rotana staff. After having a quick shower, I got dressed for the historic event.

All the journalists assembled in the Cove Rotana hotel lobby and were driven to the Ras Al Khaimah airport for the big flight. The place was bustling with activity despite so early in the morning. The airport security staff was welcoming but on alert and issued our boarding cards in no time. Everybody was excited to be on board this historic inaugural flight from Ras Al Khaimah to Abu Dhabi and were waiting anxiously to get on board as soon as possible.

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RAK Airways aircraft that carried passengers on its inaugural return flight to Abu Dhabi. Photo – Moign Khawaja

Onboard the aircraft the atmosphere was electrifying. Passengers sat in their seats but their enthusiasm was already in the sky.

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Passengers onboard RAK Airways’ inaugural flight to Abu Dhabi. Photo – Neville Hopwood

As soon as we were in the air, the flight attendants descended and started serving refreshment boxes to the passengers which included a sandwich, cup cake, juice pack and a cup of bottled water.

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A flight attendant serving refreshment box to a passenger onboard RAK Airways’ inaugural flight to Abu Dhabi. Photo – Neville Hopwood

As I was sitting next to the window, I enjoyed the 25-minute long flight with some spectacular aerial views of UAE’s coastal cities like Umm Al Quwain, Ajman, Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

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Aerial view of Ras Al Khaimah from the aircraft window. Photo – Moign Khawaja

Dubai’s coastline is undoubtedly the most stunning and breath-taking, thanks to some incredible man-made projects like Palm Jumeirah,  The World islands, Burj Al Arab and several other tourist landmarks.

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A view of Dubai’s coastline with iconic Burj Al Arab hotel prominently visible. The World islands (top right) can also be seen in this photograph. Photo – Moign Khawaja
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Aerial view of Palm Jumeirah, Dubai. Photo – Moign Khawaja

While on the flight, the city next to Dubai is Abu Dhabi which is also the capital city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Work on the city’s massive development projects can be witnessed from the sky as well.

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Aerial view of Abu Dhabi’s marina. Photo – Moign Khawaja

The historic touchdown at the Abu Dhabi International Airport was marked by the VIP water salute. However, the view from the airplane window was an amazing one!

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RAK Airways aircraft given the ceremonial water salute at the Abu Dhabi airport. Photo – Neville Hopwood
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Sheikh Salem bin Sultan Al Qassimi, Chairman Directorate of Civil Aviation, Ras Al Khaimah receiving award from Abu Dhabi Airports Company CEO, James E. Bennett. Photo – Neville Hopwood
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RAK Airways CEO John Brayford (centre) joined by ADAC CEO James E. Bennett (left) and Etihad Airways VP Airport & Network Operations Chris Youlten to cut the festive cake. Photo – Neville Hopwood
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A group photo of all the dignitaries present at the occasion including officials from RAK Airways, Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi Airports Company and other interests. Photo – Neville Hopwood
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Aircraft of both Etihad Airways and RAK Airways on the Abu Dhabi Airport tarmac. Photo – Neville Hopwood
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Everyone onboard was in a jovial mood while on the way back to Ras Al Khaimah. Photo – Moign Khawaja
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The cabin crew, including Roza (pictured) was extremely caring, courteous and hospitable and served us not only delicious refreshments but some dazzling smiles. Photo – Moign Khawaja
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Aerial view of the famous Ras Al Khaimah cement factory which is located on the outskirts of Ras Al Khaimah city. Photo – Moign Khawaja
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Sheikh Salem bin Sultan Al Qassimi, Chairman DCA, cutting the ribbon on his return to Ras Al Khaimah from Abu Dhabi onboard RAK Airways’ inaugural domestic flight. Photo – Neville Hopwood
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Sheikh Salem bin Sultan Al Qassimi, Chairman DCA (centre), John Brayford, CEO RAK Airways (2nd right) and other high ranking officials cutting the cake on their return to Ras Al Khaimah from Abu Dhabi onboard RAK Airways’ inaugural domestic flight. Photo – Neville Hopwood
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A group photo of dignitaries from Ras Al Khaimah Airways, Ras Al Khaimah Airport and Ras Al Khaimah government present at the historic occasion. Photo – Moign Khawaja

On our return to Ras Al Khaimah, I spoke to John Brayford, CEO of RAK Airways, who expressed his delight at the high level of interest shown and reckoned that it augurs well for the future success of the Abu Dhabi route. He said: “Our pioneering codeshare agreement with Etihad Airways, which begins today, has certainly created a buzz in the marketplace. I would like to thank everyone involved, especially Abu Dhabi Airports Company and the various Regulatory Authorities, for their support and cooperation without which our first flight today would not have been the success that it is.”

The hospitality and facilities that RAK Airways offered to all fliers, including passengers, journalists, and VIPs, was touching to say the least. Combined with Cove Rotana at Ras Al Khaimah as its hospitality partner, RAK Airways has everything it takes to emerge as an important regional carrier that will help Ras Al Khaimah become an aviation hub and connect it with important destinations around the world.

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