Making the move to Jazeera
Jazeera Airways’ new CEO Andrew Cowen tells Aviation Business why it was time to leave Sama.
What are your reasons for joining Jazeera Airways?
I was brought in to establish Sama from its start-up phase and it introduced me to the Middle East market and gave me insight into the different ways of working.
When my time came to an end I wanted to stay in the Middle East and when the opportunity at Jazeera came up it seemed the right step to take. As a low- cost carrier (LCC), Jazeera is a couple of years older than Sama, so having been through the start-up phase I was interested in moving onto the next stage, and that is what Jazeera offers.
What plans do you have for Jazeera?
Currently we have eight aircraft on our fleet, all are A320s and we have 40 aircraft on order, of which two will be delivered in June. This is a 25% growth for us. We are looking to accelerate more aircraft into our fleet this year to take advantage of the opportunity with Airbus and the general market conditions as they currently favour low cost airline growth. But none of us know how this credit crunch will go so we don’t want to go over the top as it were.
So the ailing economyis helping to popularise the airline?
There is no question that during current economic difficulties when individuals are looking to manage costs and be more cautious this naturally plays towards our offering.
But typically our fares, when talking economy, are 60% cheaper than traditional carriers on routes we compete with. It doesn’t matter what is happening with the economy, most of the travelling public is price sensitive.
What are your views on the region’s current regulatory policies?
The penetration of low- cost airlines in this region is still very low, at between 3-5%. Compared to the UK, Europe, the US and even South East Asia this is very low, so when deregulation occurs, low cost airlines are able to grow easily and capture a 30-50% market share.
What impact will deregulation have on LCCs?
Deregulation is as simple as allowing additional airline licenses to be issued alongside the flag carriers and it is an essential prerequisite. We have seen Kuwait at the vanguard of that liberalisation and Saudi Arabia has also liberalised recently.
This has given the opportunity for airlines like Jazeera to grow. At the same time we have more frequencies than legacy carriers to routes such as Dubai, which Jazeera will operate up to five a day from the summer at a dramatically cheaper price than Kuwait Airways, for example, which only operates three flights a day.