Jazeera Airways could become the first passenger airline to operate from Dubai's new Al-Maktoum International Airport at Jebel Ali when it opens in mid 2010.
Jazeera's new chief executive, Stefan Pichler, says the low-cost carrier remains interested in signing up as an early tenant at Al-Maktoum despite dropping its Dubai hub earlier this year. Jazeera now only serves Dubai International from its Kuwait City hub and Bahrain with six and four daily flights respectively.
"We'll certainly be one of the airlines that looks to move," say Pichler. "Let's see. It depends on the outcome of the talks".
Jazeera's chairman and former chief executive, Marwan Boodai, expressed interest in establishing a hub at Jebel Ali in 2007. At the time Jazeera was planning to expand its Dubai operation to 20 routes. While Jazeera has since dropped its ambitions expansion plans for Dubai because most of its Dubai routes were not profitable Pichler says the carrier "is still interested" in operating from Al-Maktoum.
Pichler says Jazeera is not interested in re-establishing a hub and crew base in Dubai but would consider opening a "virtual hub" at Al-Maktoum by rotating through the new airport several aircraft based in Kuwait or other bases Jazeera is now considering opening outside the GCC.
Dubai Airports head of marketing Lorne Riley says Al-Maktoum is now on track to open in June 2010 with a gateless passenger terminal capable of handling five million passengers annually and expandable to handle up seven million passengers per year. He says Dubai Airports is negotiating with several carriers which have expressed interest in operating from Al-Maktoum and is "optimistic" the first tenant for the passenger terminal will be secured "soon".
But the UAE's two low-cost carriers, Sharjah-based Air Arabia and Dubai-based FlyDubai, are not likely to be among the first tenants. Air Arabia chief executive Adel Ali says the carrier is not at all looking at operating flights from Al-Maktoum. Fly Dubai, a new carrier which Emirates launched earlier this year, says it has no plans to move to Al-Maktoum and at least for now will continue operating from Dubai Terminal 2.
While Al-Maktoum's initial passenger terminal will be operational from June, Riley says Dubai Airports expects the first airline will move from Dubai International to Al-Maktoum in late October, when carriers typically switch from their summer to winter schedule. But he adds the first cargo flight is still expected to occur in June. Al-Maktoum will open with a cargo terminal capable of handling 250,000t and expandable to 600,000t.
The airport, which was originally scheduled to open early this year, will initially have one runway capable of handling an Airbus A380. The airport's master plan includes six runways and three passenger terminals.
"What we have is a very attractive proposal for a greenfield airport. We're working with airlines to sign them up," Riley says. "It's an attractive proposition to airlines. It's a good catchment area, close to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and close to Jebel Ali port."