Air Arabia to launch Casablanca hub, Goa and Athens flights

Thursday, April 2, 2009, 19:20 by Aviation Correspondent

Air Arabia to launch Casablanca hub by May 2009; to fly to Goa from April 16, 2009, and to Athens from April 21, 2009.

Air Arabia, the low-cost airline based in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is launching its hub in Casablanca, Morocco, by May 2009.

Air Arabia, the biggest budget carrier in the region, had said in February 2009 that it would start its operations in Casablanca at the end of March 2009.

Adel Ali, chief executive of Air Arabia, told a news conference in Dubai that the airline would invest $50 million (Dh183.5 million) in its second hub to be set up in Casablanca. The work, he added, was progressing and that aircraft “are ready to go to Morocco and operate.”

The company’s chief executive said preparations were in progress to start Air Arabia’s new services to Goa in India and Athens in Greece and that the carrier was “keen on expanding” its services further into Pakistan.

Air Arabia will start flying to Goa from on April 16, 2009, and to Athens from April 21, 2009. The airline had a plan to launch a hub Nepal, but it was shelved because of the political instability In Nepal, Ali explained.

Once the service to Goa begins, Air Arabia would have 150 flights to destinations in India every week compared to only 5 destinations in Pakistan.

The website gulfnews.com quoted Alias saying: “Indian’s Civil Aviation Authority opened its door to us and we hope that Pakistan would do the same.”
He said the operations of the Casablanca hub got delayed because the airline was waiting for market conditions to improve to finance the purchase of 44 aircraft.
Air Arabia – which operates scheduled services to destinations in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent – has a fleet of 16 Airbus A320 aircraft, and has placed an order for 44 more Airbus A320 planes. Delivery of the 44 new Airbus planes – costing about $55 million each – would take about 5 years.

Air Arabia aims to have around 25 aircraft flying out of Casablanca to at least 60 destinations in Europe and Africa within 5 years, Adel Ali told reporters, adding that the airline was currently holding talks with local and international financial firms in order to “get the best deal available.”
The hub at Casablanca would have 20 to 25 aircraft, flying to around 60 airports within a five-hour radius.

Adel Ali told reporters: “I think we will be going to Italy, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and countries in North Africa.”
The worldwide drop in demand for air travel, according to Ali, was bound to hit Air Arabia’s earnings, but the fall in the price of oil coupled with increase in the demand for discount travel in the Gulf Arab region would benefit the airline.

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