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India’s SpiceJet to launch new airline from UAE

Waheed Abbas
Filed on October 24, 2019 | Last updated on October 24, 2019 at 06.57 am
SpiceJet, UAE, Flight, Ras Al Khaimah, New Delhi

(Reuters)

The service is slated to take off next year.

SpiceJet has decided to set up its first international hub outside India in Ras Al Khaimah to expand its operations to Europe, Middle East and Africa.

The low-cost Indian carrier also announced plans to launch an airline, which will be based at RAK International Airport.

The budget carrier on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding with the RAK International Airport to start direct flights between RAK and New Delhi from December 2019. It will operate five flights a week and aims to gradually increase the frequency.

Ajay Singh, chairman of SpiceJet, said they are applying for a licence for the new airline, which will operate from Ras Al Khaimah and likely to take off next year.

“We are looking to establish an airline based in Ras al Khaimah. We are applying for certification shortly and the approval will take around three to six months,” Singh told media during a press briefing on Wednesday.

The proposed carrier will be sixth airline to operate from the UAE after Emirates, Etihad, Air Arabia, flydubai and the recently-announced Air Arabia Abu Dhabi. It will be the fourth budget carrier to operate from the UAE, resulting in stiffer competition among the UAE’s low-cost carrier to grab more market share — especially on the Indian route, which is already reaching its full capacity. Non-resident Indians living in the northern emirates will especially benefit from this increased competition among the low-cost carriers.

“The new airline will help connect India with Eastern and Western European destination using RAK as hub,” Singh said.

He said that around four to five jets will be based in Ras Al Khaimah and those will be 737 MAX series after they have been certified by the US regulator.

“We are looking to see Ras Al Khaimah become a stepping stone into European destinations. There is already good traffic between RAK and Europe and we are connecting Europe to India via Ras Al Khaimah. This is our first international hub,” he said, adding that airports in India are getting congested and with new aircraft coming for SpiceJet, the carrier is forced to look at alternatives in the region.

SpiceJet has been massive plan to expand its operations across the globe. Last month, Singh said airline will be discussing an order for at least 100 Airbus planes worth $13 billion. In 2016-17, it placed an order for up to 205 MAX aircraft, including firm order for 155 such planes. But, it had grounded 13 Boeing 737 MAX after the crash of two aircraft operated by other airlines.

SpiceJet chief said the name, destinations and shareholding for the new airline are still at the discussion stage.

He stressed that there is a strong potential to make Ras Al Khaimah hub for connectivity with Africa, Middle East and Europe. “Ras Al Khaimah sees strong European tourist inflow so it merits a direct connectivity between.”

Currently, Sharjah-based budget carrier Air Arabia flies from RAK International Airport to certain destinations in Pakistan and Gulf countries.

Sheikh Omar bin Saqr bin Khaled Al Qasimi, Board Member of Ras Al Khaimah International Airport, Executive Manager of Investment & Development Office, said they are working towards upgrading travellers experience and adding more routes to and from Ras al Khaimah.

“Apart from the addition of a very vital route, this relationship will serve to be a very strategic one serving the wide Indian diaspora of residents and businesses in Ras Al Khaimah,” he said.

Singh also see a strong potential in logistics space. ”We have started SpiceJet freighter aircraft and we will be expanding on that as well. We are trying to create a logistics hub at RAK airport for aircraft maintenance and repair operations.”

Commenting on Boeing 737 MAX’s, Singh hoped that the aircraft will return to skies in the later part of this year or early next year and will be safest after such a long and close scrutiny from regulators around the world.

“Our pilots have flown 737 and we are confident. Boeing has act in order now and we are hopeful that 737 will fly later this year or early next year. We have 200 aircraft on order of which 13 delivered and 15 awaiting deliveries,” he added.

He hoped that the airline will get compensation from Boeing for aircraft.

— waheedabbas@khaleejtimes.com


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