AirArabia A320-neo

In a time when commercial aviation is struggling the most, the birth of a new airline is almost unfathomable. We’ve been listening to the sad stories of airline losses, bankruptcies, grounded fleets and more. But Abu Dhabi is one city where airline activity is picking pace. In fact, two players have recently emerged in the UAE capital.

One of those two is AirArabia Abu Dhabi.

On 14 July, the brand-new airline flew an Airbus A320 from Abu Dhabi to the city of Alexandria, Egypt, on what marked its maiden flight. A second flight is scheduled to fly passengers to another Egyptian city — Sohag — as of today at 2:20 pm local time.

The Chief Executive of the AirArabia group, Adel Al Ali shared his thoughts:

We are delighted for the launch of Air Arabia Abu Dhabi’s first flight and we thank all partners who supported us in achieving today’s milestone. We look forward to expanding Air Arabia Abu Dhabi’s destination network as more airports open up while providing our customers with a new value-for-money option to travel from and into the capital.

AirArabia Abu Dhabi is a joint venture between Etihad Airways and AirArabia. As part of the codeshare agreement between the two airlines, the new carrier will benefit from Etihad’s global list of connections.

Why are LCCs Springing Up?

AirArabia

© AirArabia

The Middle East is a growing market for low-cost carriers. Unlike Europe, there isn’t a long list of LCCs that subsidize air travel in the region. Emirates, Etihad and Qatar — with their massive route networks — still constitute of the majority of market share.

But since the coronavirus has struck, both domestic and international air travel have collapsed in the Middle East. This has, in turn, created a new-found opportunity for LCCs. Let’s explore how.

AirArabia 6000th delivery

© AirArabia

In Europe, we’ve seen how budget carriers are dominating and contributing to a steady growth in the region. Ryanair, EasyJet and Wizz Air — to name a few — have recently rebooted their entire route networks to meet recovering demand. And they’ve actually received a favourable response to their summer offerings. Ryanair, for instance, reported “very strong” bookings from holidaymakers earlier this month.

However, the Middle East is far from this. This is because it lacks a robust network of budget airlines which could contribute to recovery and cheap air travel. Moreover, the LCC fleet in the Middle East is also very small. Only 200 aircraft are operated by LCCs in the Middle East and Africa; representing just 3% of the global LCC fleet.

This leaves room for LCCs to rival their more-established counterparts; by offering cheaper alternatives. Obviously, there is a long way to go for LCCs in the region to reach this point, but previous trends — 9.3% increase in seat capacity last year — indicate that growth in the sector is indeed imminent.

Despite a global pandemic, AirArabia Abu Dhabi has taken its first humble steps and its future looks promising.

What do you think of Etihad and AirArabia’s new joint-venture? Let us know in the comments!

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