Another pressing matter for Air Arabia is fleet development. The carrier will receive an additional 35 Airbus A320s between now and 2016, as part of a multi-billion dollar order placed in 2007 for 44 aircraft. To support the growing fleet, a state-of-the-art hanger was opened at Sharjah Airport last year, allowing maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations to be brought in-house. Built on a land area of 1502 square metres, the new hanger is currently staffed by 165 employees – a number that is expected to reach 500 by 2017. “We recently completed our first ‘C check’ of Airbus A320 aircraft, which is required to be carried out every 14 months to ensure the safety, performance and reliability of commercial aircraft,” Ali beams with pride.
With only four years until the final deliveries are received from its 2007 aircraft order, Air Arabia has also been keeping a watchful eye on market developments to satisfy its longer-term fleet requirements. “Fleet planning is a regular process and takes place every three to six months,” explains Ali. “As a company, we are following aircraft developments, although this is not a race and we need to wait until the market settles before placing an order. However, assuming certain targets are met, then we are likely to need additional planes for 2017 onwards. When you operate a smaller fleet, it makes economic sense to operate a single type of aircraft, which we have done with the A320. However, our fleet has reached a stage where we can consider another aircraft type. So, while we are looking at the Airbus A320neo, there is also interest in the Boeing 737 Max and the Bombardier CSeries. Only time will tell which direction we head.”