Kuwait’s first private airline, no-frills al-Jazeera Airways, said on Saturday it would begin operations in February with two leased Airbus jets. “Al-Jazeera Airways will begin operations in February with two Airbus 320-200 which will be rented for 6 to 8 months,” Jazeera’s Vice President of Operations, Captain Adel al-Barjas, said.
When the two planes are returned in October 2005, Jazeera will receive the first two of four Airbus jets already purchased; it will get the other two in October 2006, he said. Barjas said that al-Jazeera was also in talks to purchase four other Airbus planes and had the option to decide on that up to 2008.
Al-Jazeera — which will introduce low-cost air transportation to the Gulf Arab state — will be the first local competitor to indebted state airliner Kuwait Airways Corp. But al-Jazeera officials said the two carriers plan to sign cooperation agreements at the beginning of 2005.
“We (Jazeera) will be monitored, and will follow the same laws set forth by Kuwait’s Civil Aviation (Authority),” added Barjas. Al-Jazeera plans regional flights to Bahrain and Dubai and Middle Eastern routes to Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt at its onset. Its primary expansion plan for the next five years is to fly to more Gulf Arab and Middle Eastern states, and the Indian subcontinent, Barjas added.
The airliner has a capital of about 10 million Kuwaiti dinars ($34 million), 70 percent of which was publicly subscribed and the rest provided by Kuwait-based Boodai Group among other private investors. Al-Jazeera’s low-budget services include ticket prices 50 percent below regular market rates.
Barjas said flight frequency during the first year of operation will be about 30 flights per week and will increase gradually as the carrier acquires the rest of its fleet. It will start with an initial staff of 80 in the first year.
“Some of the ways we will save money is by outsourcing much of our staff, such as maintenance and perhaps operations,” Barjas said. “Hopefully in the next five years we will have our own permanent staff,” he added.
Last year, the government of oil-rich Kuwait moved to open up its airlines sector for competition by approving the establishment of private passenger and no-frills carriers, as well as air freight companies.
Al-Jazeera, which does not have plans to introduce flights longer than three hours in order to preserve low-cost margins, will provide booking services online, at an airport office and through travel agencies.
Al-Jazeera is the Arabic word for “island,” but it is also used to mean the Arabian peninsula, which includes Kuwait. ($1 = 0.294 Kuwait dinar)