By Anurag Kotoky
Air Arabia PJSC’s expansion could see the biggest discount carrier in the Persian Gulf and North Africa order 100 narrow-body planes worth $11 billion at list prices before the end of the year.
The Sharjah, United Arab Emirates-based airline hasn’t yet reached a decision but the figure is “probably the right number,” Chief Executive Officer Adel Ali said in an interview on Monday near New Delhi.
Air Arabia currently operates a fleet of 50 Airbus SE A320 jets and is looking at the upgraded Neo version, while also seriously considering Boeing Co.’s rival 737 Max, Ali said. Bombardier Inc.’s C Series plane is also in the running as the carrier moves to renew its fleet after full-year profit jumped 29 percent in 2017 to a record 631 million dirhams ($171 million).
The discount carrier is rebounding from a period of overcapacity and lower yields in the Middle East as the low oil price weighed on Gulf economies and concerns about terrorism in North African nations hurt leisure demand.
Air Arabia carried 8.5 million people in 2017 and regards 7 percent growth in passenger numbers this year as easily achievable, Ali told Bloomberg TV last month, identifying Morocco and Egypt as the markets improving fastest.
Existing fleet plans include the deployment of six A321neo planes to be leased from Air Lease Corp. starting in 2019. The carrier has specified long-range variants to help it add new routes.