Air Arabia planned as national carrier but network and aircraft fleet yet to be finalised

Plans to create a third national airline for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have moved forward after a Sharjah government decree cleared the way for the formation of the new carrier, to be called Air Arabia.

Jointly owned by the Sharjah department of civil aviation (DCA) - which will hold 60% of the share capital - and the emirate's airport authority, Air Arabia is being developed to "provide travellers and tourists with yet another gateway" to the UAE, according to DCA chairman Sheikh Abdulla bin Mohammed Al Thani.

Specialists are working to complete a business plan which will detail the airline's probable route network and the size and type of fleet which it will operate.

"This important step has come to fruition after in-depth, intensive and extensive economic and socio-economic studies made earlier by an international consultant," says the airport authority.

Sharjah civil aviation director-general Ghanem Al-Hajri says: "Our intention is to have a small airline, serving our people and our business needs." He adds that the business plan for the carrier should be completed in the "very near future", but he declines to give further details.

Sharjah has long considered setting up its own national airline. Two of the seven emirates which comprise the UAE are already represented by flag carriers: Emirates is owned by the government of Dubai while the government of Abu Dhabi is a joint shareholder in Gulf Air. Air Gulf Falcon, a private Sharjah-based wet-lease and cargo carrier, began operating services with Boeing 747s in 1999.

Source: Flight International