HAPPY LANDINGS

Kuwait 2019 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

Jazeera Airways is expanding its reach across the region as a low-cost airline ready to serve destinations near and far from its Kuwait hub.

Rohit Ramachandran
BIOGRAPHY
Rohit Ramachandran is the CEO of Jazeera Airways. Under his leadership, the airline posted a net profit in excess of USD25 million for a seven aircraft operation. The airline will almost double its fleet to 13 aircraft by the end of 2019. Previously at Air Arabia for 12 years, Ramachandran is in the unique position of having rich domain knowledge in full-service conventional airlines, as well as hybrid and low-cost carriers. He holds an MBA in international marketing from the University of Leicester, UK, a degree in change management from IMD Switzerland, and studied aviation law at Cranfield University, UK.

What strategy has Jazeera implemented to maximize its profits and reduce its operating costs?

From the outset, Jazeera has adopted a disciplined low-cost carrier model. We keep our internal costs low and forward the benefits to our customers in terms of lower fares. We operate a fleet of new Airbus A320s, and, in 2018, we were the first airline in the Middle East to operate Airbus' A320neo, as the launch customer in the region. This new generation aircraft delivers 18% fuel savings, which means it is far more efficient, less noisy, and more environmentally friendly. All these benefits get passed on to the customer in terms of lower cost. Jazeera has been a profitable company for many years now. In an area where it is normal for government-owned airlines to make significant losses, Jazeera is an exception. We have been delivering results with margins in excess of 15-20% over many years. Because of this strong commercial and financial performance, Jazeera has a strong balance sheet with zero debt and close to USD80 million in cash reserves. All our routes are operated for purely commercial reasons, and each route has to stand on its own feet in terms of profitability. In the last few years, we launched a number of new routes, including places like Baku and Tbilisi, along with five new routes in India and two in Pakistan. These have added to our network and made Jazeera's financial performance even more robust. We have also stepped in to help the people of Qatar during the challenging period experienced over the last two years so that they could fly to their home countries, such as Egypt, when direct air services were suspended.

How is Jazeera increasing its fleet utilization while ensuring the safety of its aircraft?

Kuwait's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is extremely strong and has strict regulatory authority that ensures tight compliance by its carriers. In addition, Jazeera has always taken flight safety extremely seriously. Every two years, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) does a tough safety audit (IOSA) on its member airlines. We recently renewed our IOSA certification for another two years. In terms of fleet utilization, one of the key aspects of a well-run airline is to use its assets aggressively. Over the last few years, we have increased our aircraft utilization from 9.5 hours per aircraft per day, which is the global average for the A320, up to nearly 14 hours per aircraft per day, which is one of the highest in the world for the Airbus narrow-body fleet.

What are Jazeera's goals and expectations for 2019?

The year began on a great note. The most important thing is to ensure our customers are satisfied to fly with us. Kuwaitis recognize Jazeera as a great, homegrown Kuwaiti company, which is something we want to continue to foster. Second, we will launch six or seven new routes over the course of 2019. In June, we will launch the first low-cost airline service between the GCC and the UK with daily non-stop service between Kuwait and London Gatwick. Fares will be around 13% less than other airlines. This will be a game changer, for example for Kuwaiti students studying in the UK. We are also launching multiple other services to Karachi, Bodrum, Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, Kathmandu, Dhaka, and a few more destinations in Saudi Arabia.