x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Happy landings for RAK airport

Ras Al Khaimah International Airport is marketing itself as a cheaper and easier landing site than Dubai International, pledging to transfer passengers to Dubai hotels quicker than if they fly into the emirate.

Six scheduled carriers and more than 25 charter airlines use Ras Al Khaimah International. Pawan Singh / The National
Six scheduled carriers and more than 25 charter airlines use Ras Al Khaimah International. Pawan Singh / The National
Ras Al Khaimah International Airport is marketing itself as a cheaper and easier landing site than Dubai International, pledging to transfer passengers to Dubai hotels quicker than if they were to fly into the emirate.
Six scheduled carriers and more than 25 charter airlines use the hub in the northern emirate.
"One of our straplines is [we are] 45 minutes from Dubai," said Andrew Gower, the chief executive of RAK International.
"Not only are we seeing the passengers come here to use the hotels that we have got but we have been experiencing flights that land here to take passengers into Dubai, which is certainly a new market."
About a half a dozen carriers originating from Russia used the airport in RAK to land and transfer passengers directly to Dubai last year.
Dubai International is a "fantastic airport" said Mr Gower, but as it has become more popular, more aircraft have been forced to circle the skies waiting for a slot to land.
Dubai International is ranked the second-busiest airport in the world by international passengers, according to Airports Council International. Passenger traffic through the aiport is running at more than five million a month, according to its own data.
Last year passenger traffic reached 57.68 million, up 13.2 per cent on 2011. Passenger numbers are projected to reach 65.4 million this year and 98 million by 2020. While RAK International Airport processes just a fraction of Dubai's annual throughput of passengers it says there is less congestion in the skies above the emirate, helping passenger processing times.
"The aircraft can come straight in here and straight down," said Mr Gower.
"We did an exercise and we believe that there is a 21 minutes fuel-burn efficiency per engine of any aircraft that operates into here. In other words they are not in the hold. And … the biggest cost to any airline is fuel."
RAK International has gone as far as to challenge airlines that it is cheaper and easier to transfer passengers via road to Dubai.
"If we pick the time, we believe that if aircraft simultaneously land, some of our passengers could be downtown in their hotels in Dubai quicker than they can through Dubai," said Mr Gower.
"Nobody has taken us up on it, unfortunately."
Growth at the airport was about 36 per cent last year and it is expected to grow 25 per cent this year.
"We have seen a lot of growth within the German market, particularly, Italian and Russian. A lot of the tour operators we are speaking to is new business," said Mr Gower.
"Some days we have as many as three European services trying to get into us at the moment."
Surging passenger numbers through Dubai International have pushed up local hotel prices in the city to rank among the highest in the Middle East and Africa. At the same time neighbouring emirates such as Sharjah and RAK have benfited from the spillover effect of arrving tourists seeking cheaper accommodation options.
 
gduncan@thenational.ae