RAK Airways PJSC, the United Arab Emirates’ fifth airline, will restart operations on Oct. 10 as demand in Gulf Arab countries recovers after the financial crisis, Chairman Sheikh Omar Bin Saqr Al Qassimi said.
The airline, owned by the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah, will start with two destinations, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Calicut in India using two leased Boeing 737-400 aircraft, Al Qassimi told a news conference in the emirate.
“Conditions have markedly improved lately to the point where international passenger demand has soared,” Al Qassimi said. “The time is right for us to make a spectacular re-entry into the market.”
RAK Airways, which launched operations early 2007, suspended scheduled flights in September 2008 due to the global financial crisis. The airline continued its charter services using a Boeing 757 aircraft.
Demand for international air travel in the Gulf Arab region is improving after the economic downturn hampered demand in 2008 and 2009. Passenger traffic at Dubai Airport grew 6.8 percent in August from a year ago, Dubai Airports that operates the hub said last week.
Ras al-Khaimah, one of the seven members of the U.A.E. federation, will seek to quadruple tourist numbers by 2012 and to increase the number of five-star hotel rooms to 7500 from 1400 currently, Al Qassimi said.
Chief Executive Officer Omar Jahameh said RAK Airways is “negotiating access to new aircraft” and is “keeping its options open” for both leasing and acquisitions.
RAK Airways signed a deal with Boeing for four 737-800 aircraft with an option for two more in 2008. Jahameh said that contract is “still valid”, but that the airline is in negotiations with planemaker over the deal. Jahameh wouldn’t say exactly what the two sides are in discussions about.
RAK Airways will position itself between the region’s commercial airlines and low-cost carriers, Al Qassimi said.
Emirates, the world’s biggest airline by international traffic, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, low-cost carrier FlyDubai and Sharjah-based Air Arabia also operate out of the United Arab Emirates, the second-largest Arab economy.