SpiceJet chairman and managing director Ajay Singh has confirmed a plan to launch an airline from Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates following the signing of a memorandum of understanding last month to promote tourism in the emirate and work toward creating an aviation hub at the Ras Al Khaimah International Airport. Plans call for the airline to fly Boeing 737 Max jets already ordered by SpiceJet primarily to points in Eastern Europe targeted for promotional activity by the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority such as Budapest, Bucharest, Bratislava, Moscow, Kazan, Novosibirsk, and St. Petersburg.
The new venture would give the emirate a majority 51 percent share of the airline, while SpiceJet holds the balance, said Singh. Presently, only Air India Express flies twice weekly to Ras Al Khaimah from Kochi in South India. Now offering 1,400 seats a week to the emirate, that carrier plans to start flights from Delhi early next year.
Although the partners have not decided on a name for the new airline, they will file for an air operator certificate “shortly,” Singh told AIN. While final plans can materialize only once the now grounded Max gains clearance to fly, plans call for the carrier to launch operations by the end of 2020 with five or six of the Boeing narrowbodies. Singh said he hopes the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration will recertify the model by early next year, adding that the halt in Max deliveries “was...stopping SpiceJet from growing [faster].” Thirteen Max aircraft delivered to SpiceJet remain on the ground in India as well as four it has leased from grounded Indian airline Jet Airways and “about 10” are ready for delivery by Boeing.
SpiceJet chose Ras Al Khaimah for several reasons, said Singh, including a number of incentives from the airport. Serving an emerging market with no congestion and available slots, the airport can accommodate start-up airlines looking for a hub. “The guys [foreign airlines] are coming and trying to set up an airline in India,” said Singh. “Why shouldn’t we try it the other way around?”