Abu Dhabi’s low-cost airline, Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, has said that once air travel restrictions ease, it plans to expand its fleet to 20 Airbus aircraft. Air Arabia came into existence in July of 2020 following an agreement between Etihad Airways and Air Arabia to establish a low-cost carrier based at Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH).
Using the Air Arabia business model, Air Arabia Abu Dhabi complements the Etihad Airways network by catering to the low-cost travel market. Air Arabia Abu Dhabi operates three Airbus A320-200s and expects its annual traffic to grow by between 20% to 25% over the next five years.
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Air Arabia Abu Dhabi wants 20 planes
When speaking with The National on Tuesday about its future growth, Air Arabia Abu Dhabi group chief executive Adel Ali said,
“With the caveat that based on what surprises we get from COVID-19 and unexpected things happening, we should really be able to grow the business … with 20 planes operating out of Abu Dhabi in the next five years.”
The joint venture between Air Arabia and Etihad Airways launched last summer during the height of the pandemic with a flight between Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) and Borg El Arab Airport (HBE) in Alexandria, Egypt. The low-cost carrier aims to bring tourists to Abu Dhabi and supply Etihad with long-haul connecting passengers from secondary markets.
Abu Dhabi to ease travel restrictions
Once the Emirate loosens its COVID-19 restrictions, Mr. Ali noted that Air Arabia Abu Dhabi would be looking to accelerate its growth, saying,
“We’re very satisfied, under the circumstances of COVID-19 and lockdowns everywhere, with the result that the company has produced for us in Abu Dhabi, which makes us optimistic about future growth once there’s normality and Abu Dhabi opens.”
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is set to start allowing quarantine-free travel from next month. The Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism said it plans to lift quarantine restrictions for inbound travelers from July 1, 2021. Unfortunately, this will not apply to people arriving from India, where they are still battling a second wave of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Mr. Ali said that Air Arabia Abu Dhabi is in constant touch with the authorities regarding travel rules. Once it has received confirmation about the quarantine rules being lifted, it will “roll out more activities.”
Air Arabia Abu Dhabi flies to 14 destinations from the UAE capital, including a new service to Trabzon Airport (TZX) in Turkey launching on July 13. When travel reopens, Mr. Ali said that he sees the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Arab counties, Eastern Europe, and the Indian subcontinent as attractive markets for the airline.
Abu Dhabi wants tourists
Fueling the optimism for growth and the Abu Dhabi hub is that the Gulf state has invested heavily in the tourism sector, hoping to attract foreign visitors. Mr. Ali believes that this will present new opportunities for the young airline, saying,
“Abu Dhabi itself has invested large amounts in infrastructure, developing hotels, tourism attractions, visitor parks, entertainment, the city has a lot to offer.” Adding, “This is an opportunity. There’s a lot of room to develop.”
With the UAE managing to vaccinate more than 78% of its adult population for COVID-19, Mr. Ali believes that low-cost carriers like Air Arabia Abu Dhabi will help lead the recovery in air travel. he also thinks that initially, people will take trips closer to home and seek places that offer value for money.
Have you flown with Air Arabia Abu Dhabi? If so, please tell us how they compare with other LCCs.