Emirates’ new budget carrier to bring relief to expats

March 19th, 2008 - 5:44 pm ICT by admin  

By Aroonim Bhuyan
Dubai, March 19 (IANS) The new budget airline being launched by Emirates is expected to bring relief to the large number of low and middle-income expatriate workers in the Gulf besides boosting tourism. “The entry of Emirates in the budget airline segment will be a great relief for millions of low and middle-income expatriate workers in the region,” chairman and managing trustee of the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust K.V. Shamsudheen told IANS.

“A majority of these workers come from countries that are going to be covered by the new airline,” he said.

Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum had issued instructions to Dubai-based Emirates, the world’s ninth largest airline, to launch a new a low-fare airline to cater to the growing passenger traffic to and from the country.

“Services will be of low-cost out of Sheikh Mohammed’s sincere keenness to ease burden of living conditions of passengers and enable them to reunite with their families and relatives at home,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of the Emirates Group and head of Dubai Civil Aviation, had said in a statement Tuesday.

The order would be put into immediate effect, he said.

The proposed airline would fly to destinations that could be covered within four-and-a-half hours from Dubai, he added.

India falls within this range.

There are around 5.5 million expatriate Indians and 1.4 million of them are in the UAE alone. Many of them work as contract labourers in the booming construction industry in the region.

Shamsudheen said given the rising cost of living, the airline would come as a boon to workers here.

“I have seen that Pakistani workers prefer to travel frequently to Pakistan, which is closer to the Gulf than India, rather than bring their families here,” he said.

“Given the rising cost of living here, Indians can now travel more frequently to their home country instead of bringing their families here,” he said.

Al Rais Travel managing director Mohammad Al Rais told the Khaleej Times that the airline would be popular to expatriates travelling home.

“We have a lot of expatriates who can travel home only once a year. With a low cost ticket, they can make it home four times a year,” he said.

Likening the new initiative to “an oasis in the desert”, prominent Indian community leader Bharatkumar Shah said that given the rising oil prices, airline fares are expected to increase significantly as also everything else.

“Given this, this new type of airlines will bring relief to the large number of Indian workers in the region. I hope they start services to my sector (India) as soon as possible,” he said.

Kamal Lochan Das, regional director for West Asia and Africa of the Incredible India programme, said that the new airline would also help boost tourism in India.

“The Gulf market is very important to us. With (Sharjah-based budget airline) Air Arabia operating to India, the inflow of tourists from the Gulf to India increased by at least 17 percent in the last one year,” Das told IANS.

“If Emirates can start a budget airline, I expect a significant increase to this number and people will be able to visit more and more places in India,” he said.

Meanwhile, industry experts here believe that the new initiative from Emirates would shake up the budget airline sector in the region.

“We have long believed the low-cost carrier market in the Middle East is set to grow simply because the region is growing so fast and the low-cost carrier market penetration is still small,” Adel Ali, chief executive of Air Arabia, the Middle East’s first low cost carrier, told the Emirates Business 24-7 newspaper.

Director of London aviation consultancy John Strickland told the Gulf News that the Middle East was a natural region for low-cost aviation growth.

“There is going to be enormous traffic flow between the UAE and countries such as India and Pakistan,” he was quoted as saying.

Chief executive of Saudi Arabia-based low cost carrier Nas Air told the newspaper that the budget airline sector in the Middle East would grow the same way it developed in Europe and Asia.

“The key traffic flows will be the UAE, India, Pakistan and Egypt,” he said, adding that there was growth both in leisure and religious traffic.

Dubai Travel and Tour Agents Group manager Leo Fewtrell said that there was significant demand for low cost flights.

“I think there is demand especially in the short haul,” he was quoted as saying in the Khaleej Times.

“Prices are going up everywhere, people are being hit hard and individuals are looking to save.”

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