Air Arabia’s CEO sees better air travel in the second-half of the year

By Ashika Rajan, Trainee Reporter
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Air Arabia's CEO
Mr. Adel Ali CEO of Air Arabia

Air travel will be “much better” in the second half of 2021, before returning to normalcy in 2022, according to Air Arabia’s CEO Mr. Adel Ali.

Mr. Ali stated that the low-cost airline expected a “good boom” in business for the aviation industry after governments ease travel restrictions and airports simplify procedures.

“I hope airports over the world will not over-engineer it and make it over-complex, the way they did post-9/11. I’m hoping that the second half of this year will be much better and 2022 will be more getting into normality,” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the aviation industry, but demand is slowly recovering due to the enhanced speed with which vaccines are being distributed in several countries around the world.

Mr. Ali said that Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, a joint venture between Etihad Airways and Air Arabia that debuted during the pandemic in July 2020, is “doing relatively well under the circumstances.”

“I’m confident about the fact that once we go post-COVID we see a very good potential in the Abu Dhabi hub and it will grow very well. It’s a good thing for Air Arabia, for Etihad, and Abu Dhabi as well,” the CEO added.

The only listed airline in the UAE, Air Arabia, has five hubs in Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi, Egypt, and Morocco.

In the UAE capital, Air Arabia Abu Dhabi competes with Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, a joint venture between the Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air and Abu Dhabi state holding firm ADQ.

Mr. Ali pointed out that “the market is sizeable. I hope they will be able to create their niche and we will be doing our niche.”

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, which has a hub at Abu Dhabi International Airport, currently serves 23 routes in 15 countries and expects to expand its operations after the emirate adopted new COVID-19 quarantine-free travel guidelines in July.

Mr. Ali stated that Air Arabia wants to take delivery of 120 Airbus A320 family jets, including 20 of the ultra-long-range A321XLR planes, scheduled for delivery in 2024.

“Every indication says that the market will fully go back to 2019 levels around 2024, so hopefully if all those predictions are correct, then we will be in the right position to take delivery at the time,” he added.

Carriers throughout the world have been negotiating with aircraft manufacturers to postpone upcoming aircraft deliveries to save money during the COVID-19 outbreak, which has paralyzed travel demand and sapped revenue.

Belarus’ deployment of a fighter plane to divert a Ryanair flight and arrest an opposition journalist, according to Air Arabia’s CEO, is a “one-off” individual occurrence that will not affect how the industry is regulated.

Mr. Ali concluded that the incident will be handled by the administrations of the states involved.

Related: IATA welcomes surging number of nations opening borders for vaccinated travelers