The Kuwaiti and Dubai-based budget airline Jazeera Airways will fly to 58 new destinations in the next four years.
Jazeera Airways plans bold expansion
DUBAI // The Kuwaiti budget airline Jazeera Airways will fly to another 58 destinations in the next four years, a senior company executive said. Talking at a news conference to mark the company's newly delivered seventh Airbus A320 aircraft at Dubai International Airport, Michael Hayden, the commercial assistant vice president, said the carrier would fly to 85 destinations by 2012, from 27 today. Jazeera's new acquisition marks the first time a non-UAE carrier has taken delivery of an aircraft in Dubai. Despite two dozen global airline bankruptcies this year, including the business-class-only airline Silverjet that also flew from Dubai, and record fuel prices, Jazeera is in the middle of a huge expansion drive which will see its fleet grow from seven planes to an all-Airbus A320 fleet of 40 by 2014. The 40 planes have a list price of US$2.4 billion (Dh8.8bn) and would make Jazeera the largest Airbus aircraft operator in the region, said Marwan Boodai, the chief executive of the airline. The low-cost carrier's eighth plane will be delivered on Nov 4. By next year it will have 12 aircraft, including four planes leased from Sahaab - the company's leasing arm. Jazeera will be Sahaab's inaugural customer, Mr Boodai added. In 2010, its fleet size will rise to 19, a year later it will increase to 27 and by 2012 this will grow to 36. Mr Boodai, however would not say how much the final cost of Jazeera's fleet expansion plan would be. "We know the list price of aircraft on order, but the leasing deals would be valued differently," he said. "We will be spending $1.9bn until 2012 but it is hard to say how much the total cost is." Mr Boodai said he was confident the airline would have no problems financing its growth plans. "It is a complex model we are following, using local and international financial institutions. However, it is not difficult to get financing," he said, adding the carrier had received an "excellent response" from European financial institutions to fund its two new aircraft this year. Mr Boodai, who earlier this month announced the creation of Sahaab with an initial capital of $375 million, said that both Jazeera and its leasing arm were looking to acquire distressed airline assets in Europe and the US. "Looking at the current financial situation globally we know many airlines will be out of business," he said, adding that this provided an opportunity for Sahaab and Jazeera to easily acquire aircraft. Mr Boodai said Jazeera was not interested in taking over any European or US airline operations. "By asset we mean aircraft, and delivery slots with the manufacturers," he explained. Sahaab is scheduled to launch operations by the end of this year and place an order for up to 50 narrow-body aircraft by the middle of next year, he said. The deal would be worth between $2.5bn and $3bn at list prices. Based in Kuwait, Sahaab plans to become the largest narrow-body aircraft lessor in the Middle East, and one of the world's top five global lessors by 2020. Jazeera Airways has estimated it will carry 8.5 million passengers by 2012 and will add more destinations, including Khartoum, Muscat, Lahore, Karachi, Hyderabad, Damam, Aden, Peshawar, Ankara, and Antalya, in the future. Launched in 2005, the airline has an existing network covering destinations in the Middle East, North Africa, Iran and India. Qatar is its latest destination. The carrier was expected to post a "healthy" third quarter profit within the next 10 days, Mr Boodai said. email@example.com