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Air Arabia to start flying from Ras Al Khaimah

Ras Al Khaimah, April 15, 2014

Air Arabia, the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) only publicly listed airline, will begin flying from the Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) emirate starting May 6, taking over from RAK Airways which suspended operations earlier this year.

The Sharjah-based budget carrier, which currently operates out of three hubs in the Gulf and North Africa region, signed an agreement with the RAK government in February declaring it the official carrier for the emirate and RAK airport as its new hub.

One of the seven emirates of the UAE, Ras Al Khaimah has been trying to promote itself as a tourist destination and compete with neighbouring Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

However, its home carrier RAK Airways suspended operations indefinitely in January due to financial pressures. It had earlier suspended operations for two years after the 2009 financial crisis.

Sheikh Salem Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, chairman, Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), Ras Al Khaimah, said: “This important collaboration will give a major boost to the economic development of Ras Al Khaimah and reinforces the growing excitement about the emirate as an investment destination.

“As our designated carrier, Air Arabia’s operations will be a key component of a comprehensive strategy to develop a vibrant, distinct and sustainable tourism sector in Ras Al Khaimah to rival the most established destinations in the region.”

Air Arabia Chief Executive Adel Ali said the hub in RAK was a "viable business option" for the carrier, despite its current hub in Sharjah being less than 80 km away from RAK airport.

"It's (RAK) a growing market and we are all seeing its financial growth," he said at a press conference to announce plans for the new hub.

"Every business will have challenges and risks. We evaluated both and we are prepared for it. We are positive that challenges that will emerge from this hub are manageable."

This will be the fourth hub for the carrier, which already has hubs in Sharjah in UAE, Casablanca in Morocco and Alexandria in Egypt. It had earlier shelved plans for a hub in Jordan after the Arab Spring uprising in the region.

The Gulf carrier will initially offer direct services to eight routes from RAK airport including Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Egypt and Oman. Two new Airbus A320 aircraft will initially be based at RAK International Airport to service regular routes to Jeddah, Cairo, Muscat, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar in Pakistan, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Calicut in India, which will be added shortly after launch.

In addition to increasing the accessibility of Ras Al Khaimah to international passengers, this partnership is anticipated to provide a direct boost to the local economy through the increase in tourism flow as well as the job opportunities for Air Arabia employees who will be permanently based at RAK International Airport.

Air Arabia, which is listed on the Dubai stock market, competes for a share of Middle East passengers with regional giants such as Emirates and other low cost carriers such as Kuwait's Jazeera Airways and flydubai.

It reported a 12 percent rise in fourth-quarter net profit for 2013 as its passenger traffic grew. – TradeArabia News Service & Reuters

Tags: Air Arabia | Ras Al Khaimah | hub | Direct flights |

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