ANALYSIS: Air Arabia chief wants to bring "the freedom of air travel" to Arab world

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Air Arabia's growth strategy is, as the airline's name suggests, centred on developing a network around, as well as to and from, Arabic-speaking states in north Africa and western Asia.

Based in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and with part-owned affiliates in Egypt and Morocco, the airline has 33 Airbus A320s on order which will add to its combined fleet of 31 of the type, with another five options.

Speaking at the World Low Cost Airlines Congress, the low-cost carrier's chief executive Adel Ali says the rest of the order will arrive between the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2016. He says that while some of the new aircraft will be replacements for older A320s, overall the total fleet will grow to around 50.

Ali says the capacity growth from the additional aircraft will be mainly focused on the airline's Sharjah hub flying into "central Asian and Russian markets".

He says the company's brand "is a pan-Arab" one which shows its intentions to expand throughout the region. "We believe there are a lot of opportunities in North Africa [and] in the Middle East where the public can benefit from having a business like Air Arabia. People want to travel and they want affordable low-fare air travel," he says.

However, Ali says in many cases it is being denied permission to develop the network and asks for "fair treatment to compete in terms of opening airports and allowing us to operate".

He says: "We want a more liberal opportunity to fly into many more markets, such as Morocco into Africa. We are an Egyptian carrier not allowed to fly into Africa." It has also been denied the opportunity to fly to Europe, he adds.

Calling for a free-market aviation environment in the Middle East and Africa, Ali says: "An Open Skies situation is a must for the good of the Arab world in terms of customers, populations and tourism. The countries have big populations and surface transport is not the best. People should have the freedom of cheap travel. That will only happen if the protection of airlines goes away and Open Skies comes in. Some countries have done this fantastically and we have seen the benefits."

While he won't name specific countries denying his airline permission to offer its services he says: "We have a long list of countries we would like to fly to, but we need to be given the opportunity to do so. We don't fly into Africa from either hub [in Morocco or Egypt]."

Ali is quick to downplay the threat posed by its affiliates to flag carriers EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc. "We are not their enemy," he says.

In fact, he argues that along with the national incumbents Air Arabia can help to redress the balance in Morocco and Egypt where the majority of traffic is carried by foreign airlines.

"I think it's only right that the carriers from those respective countries have a reasonable [market] share as they are the people that invest in the countries, people like us who recruit locally. And we've seen that if you totally rely on foreign operators coming, as soon as the market shifts they leave you and go elsewhere," he says.

Another issue that Ali sees as a potential threat to the development of his airline is increased charges and taxes at airports in the region and warns airports in "the Arab worldnot to follow the wrongs of European airport charges". He says to increase charges and taxes will damage not only the airlines, but economies, through deterring customers from flying to the countries.