By Shane McGinley
Citibank offers customers free flights with every loan of up to AED120,000
Citibank’s UAE subsidiary has launched a marketing campaign
offering residents a free one-way flight out of the country if they sign on for
a personal bank loan.
The scheme, which offers loans of up to AED120,000 against a
minimum monthly salary of AED5,0000, offers a one-way flight for customers
taking a loan of up to AED64,000.
Those that take AED64,000 or more are gifted a return
flight, the lender said in advertisements.
Citibank has paired up with low-cost carrier Air Arabia for
the programme, and offers flights to 34 destinations including the Indian subcontinent
The loan plan may be seen as unusual following the number of
expatriate workers that left the UAE in the wake of the financial crisis, in a
bid to avoid loan defaults.
Under UAE law, bouncing a cheque is a criminal offence that
can result in a jail sentence. Blank cheques are commonly used to underwrite
financial deals, such as credit cards or bank loans, to guarantee future
At the height of the financial crisis in 2008, it was
estimated 2,500 people a month were absconding from Dubai alone to escape
unpaid loan bills.
Dubai-based lender Gulf Finance in February launched a loan
programme aimed at small businesses that promised not to report clients to the
police if they defaulted on their debts.
The scheme hopes to attract would-be small business owners
nervous about seeking loans from larger banks known for notifying authorities
when clients default on loans or bounce cheques.
“Our position is that if you’re courageous and want to start
your own business, it shouldn’t be a criminal offense,” chief executive office
Steve Williams told Arabian Business.