Air Arabia has confirmed the launch of its hub in Ras Al Khaimah, its second in the UAE, which will offer eight international routes starting next month.
It follows a partnership agreed with RAK’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) in February that designated Air Arabia as RAK’s official airline after the demise of RAK Airways.
Routes from RAK to Jeddah, Cairo, Muscat, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Dhaka will all go live on May 6.
A route to Kozhikode in India is still awaiting final approval.
“It’s a good thing to be able to serve as many airports as possible in the UAE,” said the Air Arabia chief executive, Adel Ali. “This agreement opens up the whole area of the Northern Emirates for us to be able to serve.”
The routes will be served by two Airbus A320 aircraft ordered by the airline in 2013, which have had their delivery dates brought forward after the February agreement.
The airline’s services from Sharjah International Airport – less than 100 kilometres from RAK - will not be affected by the new flights and will continue to grow according to the airline’s existing business plans, Mr Ali said.
“If you look at the international market, carriers like Ryanair and easyJet operate hubs within 100km or so of each other. We see the two hubs complementing each other, offering passengers different choices.”
Air Arabia also operates hubs out of Alexandria and Casablanca.
“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,” said the DCA chairman Sheikh Salem Bin Sultan Al Qasimi. “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.”
RAK Airways announced on January 1 that it was grounding all flights until further notice because of mounting financial woes.
The airline offered eight regular routes, five of which – Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore, Jeddah and Calicut – will be offered by Air Arabia.
A restructuring committee has been set up to determine the fate of the RAK Airways, which was previously grounded in 2009-10 during the global financial crisis.
Meanwhile Mr Ali said that traffic from Air Arabia’s four Ukrainian routes had been reduced following the political turmoil of recent months.
“There’s been a slowdown in passengers from one or two destinations like Donetsk by between 5 to 7 per cent. However, it’s not as bad as we expected.”
A further devaluation of the rouble could cut passenger numbers from Russia, but that had not yet materialised, Mr Ali.
“We haven’t seen any impact yet. It’s peak season right now for passengers from Russia and the numbers don’t seem to be affected,” he said.
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