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Air Transport Intelligence news
Fujairah airline targets early 2012 launch
By Alan Dron
Details of a new Arabian feeder airline are due to be announced imminently - possibly later this week - as it targets a start to operations early in 2012.
The new carrier will be based in Fujairah, the most easterly of the seven states that make up the United Arab Emirates. Local news outlets have tentatively named it Al Hajjar Air, although the embryo airline's chief executive Alex de Vos declined to confirm this prior to the official announcement.
The new airline would focus on regional services and act specifically as a feeder carrier for one of the Gulf's existing airlines, said De Vos. He declined to name the larger airline, but said that it was providing administrative support to help get the new operation off the ground.
The Fujairah airline would not be a low-cost carrier, he added, but would aim to provide as much of a full-service environment as its short-haul flights allowed. Initially it would wet-lease a single 30- to 50-seat turboprop.
No passenger airlines currently operate scheduled services from Fujairah International Airport, which mainly handles cargo flights - predominantly to Africa and the CIS countries. "Other airlines have tried a few times to establish a passenger service [from Fujairah] but with a different business model," said De Vos, "usually based on immigrant labour traffic to and from the Indian sub-continent. It doesn't make economic sense to try that again as there are enough carriers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) doing that." The GCC is composed of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman.
Fujairah has a population of just 130,000 but De Vos said that three factors would give his airline a good chance of success. One was the distance between Fujairah and the federal capital of Abu Dhabi, at least three hours' drive away. "Since the UAE is a federal state, basically there are government departments in all the emirates, so there's quite a lot of traffic between Abu Dhabi and Fujairah. That's one part of our target."
The second opportunity was Fujairah's effort to establish its tourist industry, with several new hotels due to open shortly. The third was local residents using the new service from Fujairah to connect with long-haul services.
De Vos said that the new airline had gained its AOC and was in final discussions about its initial aircraft. A publicity campaign to create awareness among the local population was intended to lead to a major announcement at November's Dubai Air Show.
De Vos began his career as a commercial pilot in the US before moving into airline management in Germany then heading to the Gulf as a consultant and latterly setting up aviation consulting and air charter company Gulf Executive Aviation in Bahrain.