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Fujairah's Al Hajjar Air eyes early 2012 launch

Carrier seeks investment of $3.5m, plans to launch with one aircraft.
NEWS, Aviation

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Planned Fujairah-based carrier Al Hajjar Air is close to finalising investment of about $3.5m in a bid to launch operations in the first quarter of 2012, Arabian Business has learned.

Al Hajjar Aviation, the company behind the airline, is in talks for financing options to raise $3.5m to fund the leasing of its first aircraft, said CEO Mike Carvath.

“There are offers on the table but we are still interested to talk to other parties. We have options where we can go ahead to launch services in the first quarter of 2012,” he said.

The carrier plans to offer low-cost tickets but with full flight services on board and will transport passengers between emirates in the UAE. Al Hajjar will initially lease a Jetstream 41 aircraft from BAE Systems, which can carry up to 29 passengers.

“We are going to launch the first domestic service within the UAE that is not targeted at the tourist market like the seaplane operation,” Carvath said, adding that Al Hajjar Air would effectively seek to “feed off one of the main carriers serving the capital.”

The airline plans to launch two routes in 2012 - a twice-daily service to Abu Dhabi and a daily service to Bahrain – before expanding to Doha, Muscat, Kuwait and the Indian subcontinent.

The carrier has received its AOC (Air Operator's Certificate) in the UAE and has submitted its business plan to the UAE Department of Civil Aviation.

Fujairah, one of the UAE’s poorer emirates, has made efforts to transform itself into a trade and tourism hub to compete with neighbouring Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The city is overhauling its airport with a second passenger terminal, a new 3,000m parallel taxiway and control tower, and cargo village scheduled for completion by 2025.

The airport hopes to lure low-cost airlines in a bid to tap into the UAE’s large migrant worker population and the Gulf’s budget domestic travellers. FIA currently caters for just 100,000 passengers a year, but Carvath said it may offer lucrative opportunities in the future.

“[It] a strategic location [and] it is one of the last of the seven emirates to start growing,” he said. “We see massive potential in Fujairah… It makes commercial sense to connect Fujairah to the capital if you are going to do a domestic service as it is one of the longest distances by road. In the western world domestic and feeder services have proven to be very successful.”

But analysts warned the UAE’s aviation market is approaching saturation. In addition to flag carriers Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways, the Gulf state also plays host to budget airlines Air Arabia and RAK Airways.

"The UAE aviation market is saturated… The major UAE airlines have already established their footprints in this market by providing good service at acceptable fares. These factors will hinder the entrance of another regional airline in the UAE market,” an aerospace and defence analyst at consultancy Frost and Sullivan said in an emailed statement.

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