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Air Arabia eyes 100-jet order this year after record 2017 profit

Air Arabia eyes 100-jet order after record profit

2018 03 15

2018 03 15

BENGALURU -- Middle East budget carrier Air Arabia will add more destinations and could order around 100 narrow-body aircraft this year, thanks to rising demand in Egypt and other hubs, Chief Executive Adel Ali said on Wednesday.

The expansion from the United Arab Emirates' only publicly listed airline comes amid rising oil prices and after a year in which Air Arabia's profit increased 30 percent to a record 662 million dirhams (129.7 million pounds), as it flew more passengers and operated more routes.

The airline is considering placing new orders for the first time in several years to support future growth.

"It doesn't necessarily have to be a purchase order. The leasing market is pretty good," Ali said in an interview in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru.

In November, Air Arabia announced a leasing agreement for six Airbus A321neo long-range jets from U.S.-based Air Lease Corp.

"Our technical team and financial team are working with both Boeing and Airbus," Ali said.

The Sharjah-headquartered airline currently operates an all-Airbus A320 narrow-body fleet of around 50 jets.

Ali did not rule out a deal for CSeries jets made by Canada's Bombardier (>> Bombardier, Inc.), though suggested a preliminary agreement by an airline Air Arabia now partly owns was no longer valid.

Petra Airlines, in which Air Arabia bought a 49 percent stake three years ago, signed a letter of intent with Bombardier in 2014 to buy up to four CSeries jets in a deal worth up to $300 million at list prices.

"Petra as an airline was finished a long time ago. That's history. Everything that was there is gone," he said.

Petra was rebranded Air Arabia Jordan in 2015 with the opening of Air Arabia's fourth hub in Amman.

Ali said Air Arabia would sharpen its focus on Egypt this year as demand increases.

"We see the tourists coming back, trade is coming back. We have slowed down in Egypt for some time now because of geopolitical and economic uncertainties. We now see certainty there," he added.

The carrier also expects to grow in Russia and some former Soviet states this year. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held in Russia, which is expected to spur demand.

Air Arabia plans to add more routes in India, Ali said. The airline already operates a handful of routes in the country, a booming aviation market.

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