By Shane McGinley
Kuwait carrier dismisses plans by Beirut government to attract the Irish carrier to the region
The chairman of Kuwaiti low-cost carrier Jazeera Airways has dismissed plans by the Lebanese government to persuade Ryanair to operate routes to the region, claiming the Irish low-cost carrier’s model would not work in the Middle East.
Authorities in Lebanon last month told Arabian Business they were in talks with low cost carriers including easyJet and Ryanair about starting operations to the country in a bid to boost a tourism industry that has been rocked by political turmoil in the Arab world.
"Indeed we are talking to Monarch Airlines, easyJet [and] Ryanair - we're talking to all of them," Tourism Minister Fady Abboud said in an interview from Beirut, adding that he intended to table a proposal at a July 18 cabinet meeting to endorse the plans.
"I have a complete plan that I want to introduce low cost flights and chartered flights," he said.
However, Marwan Boodai, group chairman of Kuwait-based low-cost carrier Jazeera Airways dismissed the plans and said the Beirut government was unlikely to be able to entice the Dublin-based low-cost carrier to enter the Middle East market.
“It won’t work… They will only do it when they have huge capacities,” he said of the talks. “Governments should stick to financing,” he added.
UK-based easyJet's only destinations in the Arab world are Jordanian capital Amman and Marrakech in Morrocco. Irish carrier Ryanair flies to six locations in Morocco, while the closest east it flies is to Larnaca in Cyprus.
Ahead of the cabinet meeting, Abboud said there was “a 50-50 chance" the cabinet would support his proposal. "I'm going to make the cabinet responsible," he said, adding, "If you need tourists, we're going to have to fly them in. We cannot fly a tourist at €1000 during this season and expect a lot of tourism."
Kuwait-based Jazeera Airways reported revenue for the first half of 2012 rose 11.8 percent to KWD28.3m (US$100.34m). Operating profit over the same period was up 39.9 percent year-on-year to KWD6.4m, while net profit rose 21.6 percent to KWD3.8m.
However, there is a void in the middle-east market and more demand for discount carriers in the region. There has been a void in the Kuwait market with the collapse of Wataniya Airways and the recent incidents of Kuwait Airways which prompted 60% of KA booked passengers to cancel their flights. Jazeera Airways has not performed as well as the market needed in this region with limited expansion and lack of upgrading to their fleet, so I find it interesting that Jazeera Airways would be commenting on this subject matter? If the Lebanon market necessitates other carriers to cater to their market, then so be it.
This story appears to mix two things: flights to Lebanon and the Ryanair model.
Jazeera's comments are probably right: the Ryanair model probably won't work here because people expect to be able to change their plans at short-notice, expect an all-inclusive product and expect to be treated with a bit of respect and courtesy: none of which fit with the Ryanair model.
Separately Lebanon wants to attract tourists from Europe and therefore encouraging Ryanair and EasyJet (which tend to attract the more open-minded and adventurous weekend and short-break travellers) is probably a pretty sensible move.
well a competitor would say that to discourage another carrier from coming in. Its simple try the model i believe it will be a success but remember the ticket is one thing its the extras that catch you out and ryanair also say fly to rome but actuallits 40 miles away so dont expect beirut to be beirut
Ryanairs service is poor and we need protection like abta here
I believe that other Middle Eastern countries and corporations should mind their own businesses and leave Lebanon alone. Lebanon is dependent on tourism as their main source of income and if other Middle Eastern countries have issued warnings or bans on their own citizens to enter Lebanon, then they should've expected this move from Lebanon as a "counter-retaliation" move to try its best to maintain its reputation as a troursit destination and to secure or at least try to stabilize its economy.