N-Air International Plans Budget Flights to India from Fujairah

A new budget carrier plans to launch services between Fujairah International Airport in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and destinations across India this summer serving the strong Indian expatriate market in the UAE and ethnic worker traffic between the two countries.  According to media reports from the UAE, N-Air International will begin flights in June or July this year and will operate a single Airbus A320 to destinations in southern India.

The low-cost carrier is reportedly being developed by a Florida, USA-based business formed by a member of an Indian expatriate family in Abu Dhabi.  N-Air International, according to the report on Emirates 24|7, currently operates as a charter provider offering passenger and cargo flights from the US to various destinations in the Caribbean.

In an interview with Emirates 24|7, Rajan Nair, Chief Executive Officer, N-Air International outlined details of the proposed start-up carrier.  “We are also in the process of starting passenger flights with an Airbus A320 aircraft from UAE [Fujairah] to the southern cities in India,” he said. 

“The Indian operation is expected to begin in the month of June/July 2013.  We have already got the aircraft and crew standing by and we are waiting for approval from the Director General of Civil Aviation.  Fujairah Airport authorities have already told us that they would welcome us,” Captain Nair added.

If successful with its launch, N-Air International is expected to initially focus on the Indian destinations of Kochi, Kozhikode, Madurai and Vishakhapatnam and in the longer-term the venture plans to offer a wider network of international flights providing connections into India from cities across the world via Fujairah International Airport.  “Our ultimate objective is to bring international tourists to Fujairah and from there take them further to South Indian destinations which are quite popular on the global tourism map,” added Captain Nair in the interview.

Fujairah is currently home to the sixth largest airport in the UAE accounting this month for just 0.3 per cent of total flight departures and 0.1 per cent of capacity within and from the country.  At the current time domestic carrier RotanaJet provides the only scheduled services from Fujairah International Airport with links to both Abu Dhabi International Airport and Al Bateen Abu Dhabi Executive Airport.

With no oil resources, Fujairah has not witnessed the widespread growth seen in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but it is now taking a much more important position in the economic development of the UAE.  It has long existed with handouts from the country’s heavyweight emirates but its location means it is now playing a strategic role as a global energy hub.  

The fact is Fujairah is the only emirate on the Eastern side of the Strait of Hormuz, which gives it access to the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean beyond, avoiding a difficult stretch of water in the process.  The Strait of Hormuz is one of the most critical shipping passages in the world with around 35 per cent of the global seaborne oil trade passing through the 21-mile strait, previously the only exit point from the Gulf for much of the world’s energy supply.  The problem is Iran continues to threaten to blockade the strait as part of its increasing tensions with its neighbours.

A new pipeline across the UAE that ends at the port of Fujairah now reduces the importance of Strait of Hormuz with around 1.5 million barrels a day now being transported for onward distribution via tankers from Fuajriah.  In 2014, Abu Dhabi will build a liquid natural gas (LNG) pipeline, terminating at a new gasification facility at the Fujairah port. In all, these networks will allow ships to load and offload in Fujairah, avoiding a risky sail through the Strait of Hormuz.

These projects are expected to almost double the population of Fujairah increasing the need for new direct air services from the emirate rather than long ground transport to Dubai or Abu Dhabi.  Fujairah currently has a population of around 140,000 citizens but local officials expects around 100,000 foreign workers from skilled management executives to menial labour workers to arrive over the next five years to support development.

The demand for air services between UAE and India is significant and growing.  In 2011 an estimated 6.6 million O&D passengers travelled between the two countries, up 3.4 per cent on the previous year while seat capacity in this market has grown 35.1 per cent over the past five years from almost 4.8 million seats in 2008 to 6.4 million in 2012. 

According to schedule data, two of N-Air International’s proposed destinations are already all served from other emirates although there are no current flights to Madurai and Vishakhapatnam.  Meanwhile, Kochi is served from Abu Dhabi (Air India Express and Etihad Airways), Dubai (Air India Express, Emirates Airline and IndiGo) and Sharjah (Air Arabia, Air India, Air India Express and jet Airways), while Kozhikode is linked to Abu Dhabi (Air India Express and Etihad Airways), Dubai (Air India, Air India Express and Emirates Airline), Ras Al Khamiah (RAK Airways) and Sharjah (Air Arabia, Air India and Air India Express).

Source: Emirates 24|7

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