Jazeera Airways to spend $2.4bn on aircraft to 2014

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Jazeera Airways is spending $2.4bn on new aircraft by 2014 and increasing its number of international destinationsto 85 from 26 by 2012 as part of ambitious expansion plans, the airline's chairman and chief executive said on Tuesday.

The carrier, which has hubs in both Kuwait and Dubai, has 33 Airbus A320s on order and will become the largest operator of the aircraft in the Middle East by 2014, Marwan Boodai, said at an event marking the unveiling of Jazeera’s seventh new A320.

He said the airline planned to increase annual passenger numbers from the current 1.2 million to 8.5 million in the next four years by adding new routes over the next four years across the region.

But Boodai said the airline may be able to accelerate its growth plans as other airlines feel the affects of the global financial crisis.

He said Jazeera may be able to buy delivery slots from aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus as both were 'overbooked' and not able to deliver to Jazeera at the "right times". But he added that Jazeera had not had any delays with delivery of any of its seven A320s from Airbus to date.

"With the turmoil internationally we have a better chances to acquire more assets, more aircraft faster than what we could do before. If we have a chance to acquire more aircrafts that will be reflected in Jazeera's business case," Boodai said.

He said the expansion scheme would be funded by international partners including banks, with the most competitive borrowing rates for the seventh and eighth aircrafts offered by European banks. In addition, four aircraft it will take next year will be leased through its subsidiary, Shahab Leasing.

He added Jazeera was able to protect itself from the financial turmoil by repositioning itself within the aviation market to attract more business and leisure traffic.

He said third quarter results would be announced in the next ten days time and were "healthy".

Boodai said Jazeera worked on a flexible fare system whereby fares would continue to reflect the drop in fuel prices.

"As an airline the lower it goes the better,” he said. “When it comes to oil prices going up to $140 a barrel the price was unbelievable and something should have done. But the further the prices drop we are going to have more passengers travelling."

Its new routes include Khartoum, Muscat, the Maldives, Sharjah, Karachi, Daman, Ankara, Aqaba, Peshawar, Riyan and Antalya.

Launched in 2004, Jazeera Airways is the first private scheduled airline in the Middle East and is still the only carrier that is neither owned nor subsidised by any government.

Its capital in 2008 to date was $73 million, with profits of $8.4 million.

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