Air Arabia expands throughout region

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There is no indication that low-cost carrier Air Arabia is pausing in its conquest of the Middle East and North Africa region, having unveiled plans for a Jordanian division days after starting operations in Egypt.

Air Arabia serves 46 cities from Sharjah, from where it concentrates on Middle Eastern, Indian and north-east African routes. It has broadened its reach in the Arab world with the creation of a Moroccan operation in Casablanca last year and a similar division in Egypt this year. "The fact that we decided not to name the airline after a city or a country gave us the opportunity to expand," says the airline's chief executive Adel Ali.

Air Arabia has chosen Alexandria and Amman to reinforce a wall of focus points aimed at connecting Europe to Africa, the Gulf and the Indian subcontinent.

"With the more aircraft we receive and new routes we open, it is normal that we continue recruiting required talents to man the airline's growth," says the carrier.

air arabia a320, air arabia
 © Air Arabia
Air Arabia operates Airbus A320s and has been recruiting cockpit and cabin crew for Egypt

"We just opened our third hub in Egypt, whereby we recruited around 100 new employees and as we develop this hub, we will need to recruit more."

While some Middle East stateshave policies intended to increase the proportion of local citizens employed, particularly in the private sector, Air Arabia says it is "not pressured to recruit any certain nationality. Our recruitment policy has always been based on professionalism and the talents needed to do the job. We have a good number of very talented UAE nationals in our team, whether in the management office, engineering or pilots."

While the carrier admits that challenges to find the right personnel are "always there" when companies are expanding, the company has been able to recruit "many talented professionals" during its development of its bases in Morocco and Egypt, and expects to do the same with Air Arabia Jordan.

Air Arabia operates a single-type fleet of Airbus A320s and has been recruiting cockpit and cabin crew for Egypt. Typically it seeks 5,000h total time for captains and 1,500h for first officers, including 800h on A320s for both positions.

There are also signs that it is planning to recruit ab initio pilots. The airline linked with Alpha Aviation Group two years ago to establish a Sharjah-based training operation, to include multi-crew pilot licence courses aimed at turning out A320 pilots in 18 months.

adel ali - air arabia, etienne de malglaive
 © Etienne de Malglaive
"We do provide very good salaries, the same as the rest of the leading airlines"
Adel Ali
Chief executive - Air Arabia

"We have established the training academy to support our need for pilots as the airline grows bigger," says the carrier. "But for the time being, we also hire pilots from outside."

Air Arabia has also been on the hunt for cabin crew. It usually seeks cabin personnel with two years' experience, aged 23-27.

"There is always a shortage when it comes to aviation talents, especially in the operational side of the business," the carrier admits. "The UAE provides a good platform where many aviation professionals seek careers. We have been lucky in that sense and as a result, Air Arabia enjoys one the world's best management and operational teams.

"We do provide very good salaries, the same as the rest of the leading airlines. Our low-cost business model makes it a priority for us to recruit talented, multifunctional teams and we make sure they are empowered and motivated to get the best out of them," Air Arabia says.

Although the larger Gulf carriers have been expanding rapidly, the carrier is unconcerned about the possibility of their sapping personnel from Air Arabia with their buying power.

"We have one of the lowest rates when it comes to staff turnover. We have maintained our teams for so many years," it says. "We follow modern and flat management style and we provide our staff with opportunities to grow as the airline grows."