x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

RAK airport aims to fill gaps in market

Ras Al Khaimah International Airport is focusing on attracting low-cost carriers and charter flights as it aims to expand while avoiding competing with other airports in the UAE.

Ras Al Khaimah International Airport is focusing on attracting low-cost carriers and charter flights as it aims to expand while avoiding competing with other airports in the UAE.

"If you look at the different airports, they all need to complement each other for the UAE to be a very favourable hub," said Mohammed Qazi, the commercial manager at RAK International. "Whatever gaps you will see in Dubai, and Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah airport is trying to identify those and make those our key success factors. The UAE is a very competitive marketplace."

Mr Qazi said the airport was not trying to compete with Dubai, and, being smaller, Ras Al Khaimah's airport could offer a quick turnaround for low-cost carriers.

"We do things that Dubai probably don't want to do," he said. "We can operate as a low-cost airport."

The airport is also in talks with operators to launch more charter flights from different parts of Europe to Ras Al Khaimah, which would help to boost tourism, he said.

"We're looking at Western Europe and the CIS," said Mr Qazi, referring to former Soviet republic's now grouped as the Commonwealth of Independent States. "We have to be very careful at this stage with our growth plans because we don't have enough rooms to sell."

The airport experienced subdued activity as RAK Airways suspended its scheduled passenger services for almost two years amid the global economic downturn. The service was relaunched in October 2010. RAK International has installed new management in recent months to drive further growth at the airport.

In the first quarter of the year, passenger numbers rose 58.5 per cent from a year earlier, according to figures released by the airport.

"Predominantly it's coming through from RAK Airways, but we've had some other business as well, such as the German charter which started late last year," said Mr Qazi.

The airport also aims to increase revenue from cargo movements, training flights and technical services.

rbundhun@thenational.ae