Air Arabia to open Morocco hub this year - Emirates24|7

Air Arabia to open Morocco hub this year

Budget carrier Air Arabia will open its third hub in Morocco in the later half of this year in order to connect to European destinations, according to the airline's chief executive.

"We do not have an exact date yet but we are looking at starting operations from our Morocco hub sometime in the fourth quarter of this year. The whole objective is to connect to Europe, North Africa and more Middle East destinations via Morocco," Adel Ali, CEO of Air Arabia, told Emirates Business.

The Sharjah-based carrier in January this year launched its second hub in Kathmandu, Nepal, in a joint venture with Yeti Airlines, the market leader in domestic air travel in Nepal.

For its hub in the Moroccon capital of Rabat, which was originally scheduled to be Air Arabia's second hub, Air Arabia has already entered into a joint venture with Morocco's leading private carrier, Regional Air Lines and Bahrain-based investment bank, Ithmaar Bank, according to Ali.

"Though I cannot disclose our share in the joint venture, Air Arabia will be a major shareholder in the

deal and will have the management control as well,"

he said.

"We were originally going to launch the Morocco hub before the Kathmandu hub, but as it turned out, Morocco is going to be much larger hub and thus it took time.

"Establishing a hub in Kathmandu, on the other hand, was a much quicker process," Ali added.

The airline could also be opening a fourth hub in the near future, in order to start flights to Morocco. "At present there is no firm plan, but if need be we could look at a hub to fly to Morocco at a later stage. However, that is not a priority as of now. If at all, we may serve one or two points that would connect us to Morocco," Ali said.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Thani, Air Arabia's Chairman, had said earlier: "Air Arabia is currently in the middle of a period of rapid expansion. This agreement provides us with the opportunity to reach into fast-growing markets in North Africa and across the Mediterranean into southern Europe. With a strong presence in the Egyptian cities of Alexandria, Luxor and Assiut, Air Arabia will now be able to expand significantly this coverage area across the EMEA region."

"Considering Morocco expects to welcome an estimated 10 million tourists a year by 2010, this is a good move. There is also a large Moroccan diaspora, in Europe, who will benefit," said Mohamed Hassan Ben Salah, Chairman of Morocco's Regional Air Lines.