AIRLINES

UAE, Sharjah 2017 | TRANSPORT | B2B

Low-cost and private operators are thriving in the aviation sector.

Richard Lineveldt
RICHARD LINEVELDT
Managing Director
Gama Aviation
Adel Al Ali
ADEL AL ALI
Group Chief Executive Officer
Air Arabia

What strategies have you pursued to be successful?

RICHARD LINEVELDT We took a decision when we started Gama Aviation in the Middle East in 2008 to focus our operation and efforts on expansion plans in the region in Sharjah. The reason for doing that was the unique opportunity we saw in an underserved market, together with an environment and a set of stakeholders at the airport, including both previously mentioned authorities as well as the other colleagues, operators, and concession holders on the airport. We also wanted to expand the business aviation sector at the airport, understanding that the volume and the business, which aviation would bring to Sharjah, adds to the unique capabilities. We have worked with the airport through the years to establish the perfect location for us. We have been operating our own aircraft from here since 2008. However, more importantly, we opened up this facility in 2012 to handle passengers and VIP movements out of Sharjah International Airport. That has given us a great sense of the business demands every year. We have managed to attract many UAE-based aircraft to Sharjah for passenger services, maintenance, cleaning, and overall operations of the aircraft.

ADEL AL ALI For businesses to be successful in these times, they need to be adaptable to social and economic trends. This is where true innovation comes into play. When applied to all aspects of the business, innovation can truly steer operations back in the right direction. For example, as a low-cost carrier, our aim is to make air travel affordable. What really sets us apart is our dedication to ensuring value-for-money and great service. We carried more than 8.4 million passengers in 2016, recording a 12% increase on 2015 figures. We currently operate a total fleet of 47 Airbus A320 aircraft, serving over 130 routes in 35 countries from our five hubs in the UAE, Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan.

What is the importance of location?

RL If you go back to 2008, there was no Dubai World Central Airport. At the time, we had to make the decision of going to Sharjah or Dubai International Airport, which had three FBOs. Sharjah is 15km away from Dubai International Airport. We believe that is a much more central location for serving the historical center of Dubai, together with the northern Emirates. That has proven to be fairly true. We use Dubai World Central Airport from time to time for our own aircraft. However, we were fortunate, though, getting in early with Sharjah Airport Authority to get it to have faith in us and allow us to have exclusivity. Exclusivity is the key to building a customer base when you are small and have to make loads of investments. We have a 25-year concession agreement here now, the first five years of which will be exclusive. It was what we required to be sure that the investment we are making is worth it for both parties. We are confident that after those five years we will be set.

AAA The Middle East is home to over 350 million potential travelers, and our multi-hub structure offers us the diversity and flexibility to tap into this market. All destinations on our network are strategically evaluated and operated. We learn a lot from our existing operations in all markets, and we continuously aim to serve the business and tourism needs of our customers. Trabzon and Baku expand our list of destinations and enhance the network we have established serving leisure demands of customers across the Middle East and North Africa. The integrated network across multiple regions has massively contributed to the success of our operations and Air Arabia is open to expanding in regions that continue to support this strategy. Since our inception, we have committed to building our network, and today we remain the largest low-cost carrier (LCC) in the Middle East and North Africa. Almost 15 years into operations, we have seen many low-budget carriers enter the market and take on different operational strategies.