Air Arabia Eyes May Launch For Armenian Startup 

Credit: Airbus/Christian Brinkmann

Air Arabia CEO Adel Ali said he is hopeful Fly Arna, the new airline it is setting up in Armenia, will be in the air by May.

Sharjah (SHJ), UAE-based Air Arabia is establishing a new Armenian national carrier in conjunction with the Armenian National Interests Fund. Specific initial Fly Arna routes have not yet been announced, but the carrier’s backers have indicated it is likely to concentrate on Central Asia and Russia.

The small, landlocked Caucasian nation has been without a national carrier since Armavia collapsed in 2013. Prior to that, Armenian Airlines, a 1992 spin-off from Aeroflot following the collapse of the Soviet Union, went bankrupt in 2003. Armenia has a significant diaspora in Russia and parts of western Europe. Fly Arna will be based at the Armenian capital Yerevan (EVN).

Air Arabia is additionally creating a new Pakistani LCC, Fly Jinnah, with Karachi-based conglomerate Lakson Group. Pakistan’s strategic links to China mean Fly Jinnah is likely to operate routes between the two countries. Fly Jinnah is expected to launch flights in June, Ali said.

Speaking Feb. 8 at the Aviation Club in London, Ali revealed that five newly leased Airbus A320neos would go to the new carriers–two to Fly Arna and three to Fly Jinnah.

Meanwhile, Air Arabia is looking to take advantage of six new A321LRs in its fleet to extend the reach of its network and is eyeing the acquisition of more A321LRs to bolster expansion opportunities. The carrier’s existing A320s are flying 6 hr.-sectors, “which is pushing” the aircraft’s limit, Ali said. There are a considerable number of potential destinations just outside that 6 hr. radius into which Air Arabia would like to tap.

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There are large Filipino and Thai populations in the Gulf, Ali said, indicating routes between the UAE and the Philippines and Thailand are on the airline’s radar. He noted: “There’s also a big market in Europe.”

Air Arabia’s Morocco (CNM) hub already connects to European destinations, but a nonstop SHJ-London Heathrow (LHR) route was “very much in the plan pre-pandemic, using the A321LR” and again is a real prospect, Ali said.

Additionally, until now the carrier had not been able to connect Air Arabia’s CMN and SJH hubs. “The A321LR will give us that opportunity,” Ali said.

Air Arabia has some of the world’s most heavily utilized A320s, which regularly clock up 14- to 16-hr. of utilization per day. The high utilization rate is helped by the fact that many Gulf airports remain open around the clock, unlike regions such as Europe, where curfews limit night-time flying.

Explaining Air Arabia’s operating philosophy, Ali said: “We tend to open routes that nobody else wants and work at them. We’ve succeeded in sustaining around 80% of them.”

Alan Dron

Based in London, Alan is Europe & Middle East correspondent at Air Transport World.