By Courtney Trenwith
Adel Ali says UAE airline would operate to every Arab city if gov’ts removed flight restrictions
The boss of Sharjah-based, low-cost airline Air Arabia has said he wants to operate flights to every airport in the Arab world in the next decade.
In an interview with Gulf Daily News, Air Arabia group chief executive Adel Ali called for governments to remove restrictions on the number of operators and flights to certain cities and said publicly-owned airlines were a barrier to fair growth in the aviation industry.
Nearly every airline based in MENA is government-owned, including Dubai’s Emirates and budget carrier Fly Dubai, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad, Qatar Airways, Gulf Air and Kuwait Airways.
Air Arabia, which was the first low-cost carrier in the region and recently celebrated its 10 anniversary, is privately owned.
"As we enter into the second decade of operations, it is our ambition to operate services to all airports in the Arab world, stretching from Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean," Ali said in the interview.
As well as Sharjah, Air Arabia already has bases in Egypt and Morocco and in October told Arabian Business it planned to add two additional hubs over the next five years, with Jordan and Turkey among the countries being considered.
Ali told GDN the region’s growing economies, increasing numbers of tourists and ongoing economic diversification would drive further demand for low-cost aviation.
"However, the enormous regional benefits of a thriving aviation industry mean there is a real urgency to address the challenges,” he said.
"Absence of true open-skies policies and the lack of privatisation in the Arab world remain great barriers to the progress of the sector.”
With a population of 350m, Ali believes the Arab region would boast an aviation sector the size of America’s if there were open skies.