0The moment we talk about Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, the first images come on our minds are the luxurious skyscrapers like Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, Emirates Palace and etc… Similarly, when we talk about Middle East Airlines, first 3 images are Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. Among these 3 big players there are some budget airlines who are also in the rat race. With current crisis in Middle East (Syrian War and Qatar Blockade), is it possible for these airlines to survive? With the growing demand of budget travel we will look at some of the leading low cost airlines in the Middle East particularly the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region. The list includes Air Arabia, FlyDubai and FlyNas,.

Dubai Burj Al Arab

Source: Faisal Photography 


Air Arabia


 Source: AirArabia.com

Air Arabia was established on 3 February 2003 by Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah and member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates. This was the first low-fare airline in the region. The airline started its operations on October 28 2003; from its hub Sharjah, UAE to Bahrain’s Manama International Airport. The airline served more than 3 million passengers since 2009, this is an increase on 16% from year 2017. The load factor of the airline has been almost 80% which is a good example of demonstrating a good low cost airline business model. The airline has received “Best Low Cost Airlines in the Middle East for 3 consecutive years on 2009 at World Airline Award. It also received “Low Cost carrier of the Year” on 2009 by CAPA (Center for Asia Pacific Aviation on 2009.

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Air Arabia Travel Map


Air Arabia Fleet Size (2019)

air arabia fleet.png

       Source: Air Arabia.com


  2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Turnover (AED) 181 411 749 1283 2066 1972 2080 1796 2832 3183 3729 3739 3778
Profits (AED) N/A 31 101 369 510 452 310 195 424 435 566 481 365
Number of Passengers (m) 0.5 1.1 1.8 2.7 3.6 4.1 4.5 4.7 5.3 6.1 6.8 8 8.5
Passenger Load Factor (%) 68 79 80 86 85 80 83 82 82 80 81 82 79
No. of Aircraft 3 5 8 11 16 21 25 29 33 35 39 46 50
No. of Destinations 15 23 32 37 44 45 65 69 82 90 100    

                                                 Source: Air Arabia.com




graph air arabia12


Fly Nas

Nas Air was launched on 17th February 2007, A Saudi based low-cost airline with 350 flights a week serving 13 destinations in Saudi Domestic cities and 11 International destinations including Beirut, Amman, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Damascus, Latakia, Kuwait City, Assiut, Sana’a, Sharm El Sheikh and Alexandria. Its hub is King Fahd International Airport in Jeddah. One of the youngest airlines in the Middle East aviation industry and transported more than 2.5 million passengers in 2007 and 2008. On 2014, it entered the UK market by starting Jeddah- London Gatwick flight, flights to Iran and many long-haul routes to Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Karachi and Lahore was started at the same time. It is expected to serve the US market but still no official commencing dates yet.

On May 2016, a code-share agreement has been signed with Pegasus and a code-share with Etihad Airways is also expected soon.


       Fleet Size of Air Nas (2019)

fleet fly nas.JPG


On July 2008, the government of Dubai established Fly Dubai Airlines, even though this is not part of Emirates group. In the initial phase, Emirates supported Fly Dubai to establish it. The airline operates a total of 95 destinations, serving the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe from Dubai.

Source: FlyDubai
Source: FlyDubai
Source: Fly Dubai

So as the ongoing pandemic, many countries are still struggling to open their borders and vaccinate their citizens, the Gulf market which depends on passengers in the nearby cities and many South Asian countries, how well can they perform and be competitive.