Etihad’s New LCC Granted National Carrier Status In Abu Dhabi

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi has been given “national carrier status” by the Cabinet of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This announcement takes place just before the launch of the start-up later this quarter. This move is expected to boost the civil aviation sector in the UAE, says state news agency WAM.

Etihad’s New LCC Granted National Carrier Status In Abu Dhabi
Air Arabia claims the title of the first low-cost carrier in the Middle East. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Flickr

The announcement was made as part of the Cabinet’s first meeting in 2020. The chair of the meeting was Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai:

“The resolution reflects the importance the government attaches to the aviation sector. The UAE government invested considerable efforts to improve this sector and support all the businesses working in it. The government gives the aviation sector all forms of support in line with the comprehensive development plans occurring in the country,” -UAE official statement

According to CH-Aviation, national carrier status gives an airline full rights and privileges accorded to operators under a nation state’s constitution. We weren’t able to find out what that means in practice and how it’s different from carriers without this status.

A joint venture with Etihad

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi (AAAD) is a joint venture between Sharjah-based Air Arabia and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad. Air Arabia itself takes the title of the first and largest low-cost carrier in the Middle East. It also claims the title of ‘Best Low-Cost Airline’ in Middle East/Africa as decided by the Airline Excellence Awards.

Etihad Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
By 2023 50% of Etihad’s fleet will be Boeing 787s. Photo: Etihad

With Etihad being a full-service carrier with a fairly extensive global reach, we are very much expecting to see this partnership look similar to an Emirates-flydubai arrangement. These two airlines have been codesharing for the last three years, allowing travelers access to a broader selection of destinations. With AAAD’s fleet of A320s, it can serve smaller destinations out of Abu Dhabi that may not be worth it for Etihad.

The Emirates-flydubai partnership has seen them share the same frequent flyer loyalty program. At this point, we aren’t sure if the AAAD-Etihad joint venture will offer the same.


Etihad’s New LCC Granted National Carrier Status In Abu Dhabi
Photo: Biggerben via Wikimedia Commons

There is a lot happening in the Middle East aviation scene. Soon, European budget airline Wizz Air will be setting up its own budget airline in Abu Dhabi while Indian budget airline Spicejet is partnering with the government of Ras al-Khaimah to set up a low-cost carrier in the Emirate.

There has even been a lot developing with Etihad alone. Earlier this month the carrier linked its loyalty program with Bahrain’s national carrier, Gulf Air. Last month Etihad signed a codeshare deal with Kuwait Airways.

2020 should be a huge year for Middle East aviation.

The big question we keep asking ourselves is if there is enough demand for all of this capacity and if not, which airlines will end up losing. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.