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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Rotana Jet expands fleet and looks to more long-haul flights

The airline, which operates out of Al Bateen Executive Airport, expects to add a 50-seat Embraer 145 by April and a 120-seat Airbus 319 by June.

Rotana Jet is expanding its fleet as the company eyes long-haul flights from its base in Abu Dhabi.

The airline, which operates out of Al Bateen Executive Airport, expects to add a 50-seat Embraer 145 by April and a 120-seat Airbus 319 by June.

While the Embraer jet will connect short-haul destinations, the Airbus jet will help Rotana to add longer flights, extending its reach beyond the Arabian Gulf and into North Africa and the subcontinent.

The route expansion is expected to start in May. Rotana currently has six passenger and cargo aircraft in its fleet.

Established in 2011, the airline started its international service last June flying to the Omani city of Salalah, and later added Bahrain and Muscat. It now flies four times a week to those destinations.

In the UAE, Rotana connects Sir Bani Yas Island, Dubai and Fujairah from the capital, and flies between Dubai and Sir Bani Yas

“There is quite a lot of potential in the market,” said Rajendran Vellapalath, Rotana’s chief commercial and planning director. “Abu Dhabi as a destination is growing in popularity and there are quite a lot of projects here that require quite a lot of transportation.”

In the domestic sector, nearly half the carrier’s passengers are business executives, a quarter tourists and the rest daily commuters.

While around 75 per cent of its seats are occupied on the average domestic flight, the load factor rises to 80 per cent for international flights.

The airline is also looking at flying to Ras Al Khaimah, Mr Vellapalath said, adding that the grounding of RAK Airways did not have any effect for Rotana as the two companies’ markets did not overlap.

Eastern Express was another airline that had planned to connect emirates, such as Abu Dhabi to Fujairah. It ran into regulatory hurdles last year.

Apart from big players such as Emirates Airline and Etihad, as well as low-cost airlines such as flydubai and Air Arabia, there is room for one more UAE airline that flies overseas, said Mr Vellapalath.

“Why not? We are a low-cost operation and have low fares and it’s sustainable.”

Rotana’s round-trip fare from the Al Bateen airport to Sir Bani Yas Island is Dh500, while a round-trip fare to Salalah is Dh600.

It is “difficult for a carrier flying smaller jets to try and muscle in when there is so much capacity available from existing carriers as well as competitive product and pricing,” said John Strickland, the director of London-based JLS Consulting.

“The economics of smaller aircraft are challenging, costs per seat are high and many passengers are motivated by low fares, the two don’t go together. There is a need to find a niche of customers who are willing to pay more for convenience and service, this is something Rotana has tried to do.”

ssahoo@thenational.ae