Timeframe: When Air Arabia launched its first flight to Bahrain

The Sharjah-based airline has operated for 20 years since its first flight in 2003

Sharjah launched Air Arabia with a flight to Bahrain, billing itself as the first low-cost carrier in the Middle East. AFP
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Twenty years ago, the Middle East’s first budget airline, Air Arabia, launched. Its inaugural flight was from Sharjah – where it is based – to Bahrain.

The airline began operations with two Airbus A320s, which made trips to Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman and Syria.

Air Arabia was established on February 3, 2003 by an Amiri Decree issued by Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah.

The airline broke even in its first year of operations and went on to create many joint ventures throughout the region.

In the past two decades, Air Arabia has become known for its regional low-cost travel, introducing concepts new at the time, including a pay-as-you-go model for in-flight services.

The airline has also shown a commitment to environmental sustainability by investing in fuel-efficient aircraft and implementing eco-friendly practices to reduce its carbon footprint.

Now with a fleet of more than 60 aircraft, Air Arabia flies to 170 destinations with its shortest flights going to Gulf destinations such as Muscat and Manama, while some of its longest flights go to Milan, Italy and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Air Arabia has engaged in many joint ventures over the years, striking agreements in Armenia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and, most recently, Abu Dhabi.

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi launched on July 14, 2020 to serve low-cost travellers in the capital with support from Etihad Airways. Since then, the airline has flown to destinations in Egypt, India and Bangladesh, among other places.

Today, Air Arabia is a successful low-cost airline in the region, posting a profit in its latest projections.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammad Al Thani, chairman of Air Arabia, said of the company’s financial results shared in August: “Air Arabia’s strong performance in the second quarter of this year is a testament to the resilience and effectiveness of the business model we operate.”

Updated: October 20, 2023, 6:01 PM