x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Traffic shows strong growth at RAK airport

More than half a million passengers travelled through Ras Al Khaimah International Airport in the first half of the year.

RAK Airways says it will offer Ras Al Khaimah residents cheaper and quicker travel. Philip Cheung / The National
RAK Airways says it will offer Ras Al Khaimah residents cheaper and quicker travel. Philip Cheung / The National

More than half a million passengers travelled through Ras Al Khaimah International Airport in the first half of the year.

The figure was spurred by holidaymakers from as far afield as Germany and Russia who came to the northern emirate in search of winter sun. This marked a 67 per cent increase in passenger numbers on the same period last year.

"The bulk of our growth is thanks to RAK Airways as they're focusing on routes that are the most profitable to them," said Mohammed Qazi, the commercial director at the airport.

Longer term, the airport is targeting 5 million passengers per year in the next decade, he said.

The airport's expansion is reliant on both tourists seeking a beach holiday in RAK and business travellers jetting off to the wider GCC and beyond. Traffic will be further boosted by the launch of flights by the Russian carriers Oren Air, on October 17, and TransAero in the last week of this month.

"We've always had a good relationship with German tourists and now we're growing to other markets," said Mr Qazi.

With 11 resorts and five city hotels, RAK is expanding its footprint in the leisure industry. At present two thirds of the airport's traffic is made up of business travellers.

While Mr Qazi insisted the airport was not trying to directly compete with Dubai and Abu Dhabi, it was focusing on areas where, he said, RAK had an advantage over its rivals.

It offers passengers a quicker turnaround time through check-in and security. Also, parking is free.

"One of the indicators we're working on is processing time as we don't any passenger using our service to take more than 15 minutes from check-in," Mr Qazi said.

On Sunday, the airport signed a US$2 billion (Dh7.34bn) deal with Arinc, a technology and communications firm, to upgrade the airport's information and communication systems. It will also include the region's first off-site hotel check-in and bag drop-in, allowing passengers to check in and leave their bags at the airport several hours before their flight.

It is also finalising a contract with a second fuel supplier to allow airlines to choose the best price and service for their fuel supplies.

Passenger numbers are expected to be further lifted from tomorrow as RAK Airways starts flying four times a week to Abu Dhabi.

The airline is seeking to offer RAK residents a cheaper and quicker way of travelling to and from the capital and onwards to worldwide destinations. Flights will increase to one per day in December and to two flights daily from March.

"The key to a successful domestic operation is competitiveness on price and frequency," the RAK Airways chief executive John Brayford said at an industry meeting in Abu Dhabi.

"We believe our prices are competitive against travel by road but it's frequency that gives you the independence to travel when you want to."

A return RAK-Abu Dhabi flight will cost Dh410 on RAK Airways, much less than the Dh700 the same trip costs by taxi, a spokeswoman said.

Since its 2010 relaunch, RAK Airways has introduced nine international routes from RAK to destinations including Lahore in Pakistan, Chittagong in India and Cairo. Abu Dhabi is its first domestic route.

Last month the airline announced a codesharing deal with Etihad Airways for five other destinations: Bangkok, Dublin, Geneva, London Heathrow and Manchester.

"We hope to add Germany and the US shortly," Mr Brayford said.

"Our application to the USA is being considered. We are striking partnerships deals as we go along."

lgutcher@thenational.ae

tarnold@thenational.ae