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Mon 2 Jan 2012 11:30 AM

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Red tape woes push back Jan launch of UAE airline

Fujairah-based Eastern Express still aims to launch domestic flights in first quarter

Red tape woes push back Jan launch of UAE airline
Eastern Express was slated to launch operations in Jan 2012

Eastern Express, the Fujairah-based airline that plans to offer domestic flights in the UAE, said Monday that red tape woes would see it miss its planned January launch date.

The airline remains to track to begin commercial operations in the first quarter once it gets the green light from the country’s civil aviation authority, the carrier’s CEO told Arabian Business.

“Our paperwork is with the office of the GCAA (General Civil Aviation Authority), and apparently they found some glitch which needs to be sorted out,” said Alex de Vos.

“Whether it is going to be February or March we don’t know. But we said we would launch at the beginning of this year, and at the moment we are still looking at a first quarter start.”

Eastern Express plans to initially offer return flights to Abu Dhabi starting from AED1,200,  using a leased Jetstream 41 aircraft. The Fujairah airline will target corporate travellers keen to cut the commute between the two emirates and hopes to break-even within the first three years of operations.

The business plan submitted for GCAA approval outlines the airline’s plan to lease the Jetstream 41 aircraft with the Saab 340 plane as a back-up. This may be holding up the airline’s sign-off, said de Vos.

 “The GCA needs to verify that the aircraft is known to them, the Jetstream 41 is but the Saab 340 is not, so that’s additional paperwork from our side to get it approved,” he said.

Eastern Express is Fujairah’s first passenger airline, and the only commercial carrier to operate out of the Northern emirate. The $3.5m venture is supported by three Emirati investors, including the Dubai-based Gargash family.

The carrier will not compete with existing no-frills airlines, said de Vos, but will target a blend of business travellers and tourists looking to cut travel time between the UAE’s emirates.

The carrier hopes to boost its services later this year to four daily flights, including connections with Abu Dhabi’s executive airport Al Bateen, and with a second route to Doha.

Over the next five years the firm plans to fly to every major city in the GCC, with a goal of handling 44,000 passengers annually across a fleet of four aircraft.

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