Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 31 October 2020

Etihad-Air Arabia JV awarded operating licence to become UAE's fifth airline

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi's launch depends on market conditions

A virtual meeting for the handover of Air Arabia Abu Dhabi's Air Operating Certificate. Clockwise from the bottom right: Saif Al Suwaidi, Director General of GCAA; Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Aviation Group; Adel Al Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer of Air Arabia; and Ismaeil Mohammed Al Blooshi, Assistant Director General of Aviation Safety Affairs Sector at GCAA. Courtesy Air Arabia. 
A virtual meeting for the handover of Air Arabia Abu Dhabi's Air Operating Certificate. Clockwise from the bottom right: Saif Al Suwaidi, Director General of GCAA; Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Aviation Group; Adel Al Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer of Air Arabia; and Ismaeil Mohammed Al Blooshi, Assistant Director General of Aviation Safety Affairs Sector at GCAA. Courtesy Air Arabia. 

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, the new joint venture between Etihad Airways and Air Arabia, secured its air operating licence, making it the UAE's fifth national airline once it begins service from the capital.

The new discount carrier, which was expected to start operations in the second quarter of 2020, is working with the UAE's civil aviation regulator to finalise its launch date once market conditions improve and skies re-open, it said in a statement on Thursday.

"While the spread of Covid-19 continues to impact the global economy including the aviation industry, we are confident that the industry shall overcome today’s challenges and will emerge stronger," Adel Ali, group chief executive of Air Arabia, said. "Obtaining the AOC [air operating certificate] during this time reflects our commitment and readiness to launch Air Arabia Abu Dhabi operations as soon as skies and airports open and customers can fly again.”

The announcement comes as the Covid-19 crisis brings global aviation to a near-halt. The industry is grappling with the worst crisis in its history as the pandemic wipes out air travel demand and countries shut down their borders.

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, which will operate from Abu Dhabi International Airport as its hub, will be assigned the reservation code 3L.

The two UAE airlines announced plans for the joint venture last October with the aim of tapping growing demand for low-cost travel from the capital.

Governments around the world have imposed tight travel restrictions while others suspended passenger flights in a bid to contain the spread of the deadly virus over the last few months and it is still unclear when those restrictions will lift.

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi will become the UAE's fifth airline after discount carrier Flydubai, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Sharjah-based Air Arabia.

"Despite these unprecedented times, today’s announcement is a message of positivity that reflects the strength of the UAE’s aviation industry," Tony Douglas, chief executive of the Etihad Aviation Group, said. "We are pushing ahead with our plans to resume normal flying and once we have, Air Arabia Abu Dhabi will ideally serve those who wish to explore new destinations from the capital, meeting the growing demand for low-cost travel in the region."

Middle East and African airlines stand to lose $24 billion (Dh88bn) in passenger revenue this year, risking 1.2 million jobs in aviation and related industries, according to the International Air Travel Association's latest forecast. That scenario, based on severe travel restrictions lasting for three months, is $5bn more than its previous estimates earlier this month.

Updated: April 23, 2020 04:16 PM

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