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Khaleej Times

DUBAI, Nov 3: RAK Airways, UAE's fourth national airline, will receive its first two aircraft — a Boeing 757-200 and 737-300 — by the end of this month and hopes to conclude a separate aviation accord with India in time for launching services by the first quarter 2007.

The newest UAE airline, which will make its debut by flying to five Indian destinations and four Iranian destinations, is also in talks with several Indian carriers for an interline agreement.

Dr Khater Massaad, CEO of  RAK Investment Authority and Managing Director of RAK Airways, said the airline expected to secure regulatory approvals for flying into India by the first quarter 2007.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, he said RAK Airways would not seek to be a low-cost carrier but will be a full service carrier. "Our goal is to develop Ras Al Khaimah International Airport as a gateway to the Gulf. Currently, the airport is under-utilised and our priority would be to create sustained air traffic growth."

Dr. Massaad said the launch of the airline would give a new impetus to the ongoing developments of the emirate. "We expect to see all-round growth in passenger and tourist traffic, cargo handling and free zone activities," he said.

The RAK International Airport will witness substantial upgrading of facilities as part of the launch of the new airline.

Jack Romero, CEO of RAK Airways, said a leased Boeing 757-200 in RAK Airways livery will be taken delivery on November 25, while the 737-300, bought for $8 million, will join the budding fleet by end-November. The six-year-old Boeing 757-200, priced at $30 million, was leased from Iberia Lineas Aereas de Espana SA.

Initially, RAK Airways will operate weekly three flights to New Delhi and Mumbai and two weekly flights to Trivandrum, Cochin and Chennai. It will operate thrice weekly services to Teheran and twice weekly flights to Shiraz, Isfahan, Bandar Abbas in Iran, Dr Massaad said.

He said the airline will be flying to most Gulf destinations as well as to Lebanon, Egypt and the CIS countries and Europe by the end of the third year.

Romeroa said the airline would spend around $1.6 billion on new aircraft. "In three years, we will replace our fleet with larger aircraft, either by Boeing  787 Dreamliner or Airbus A330-20. In five years, we will have a fleet of 10 aircraft," he said.

By 2008, the airline will be ready to expand operations to more destinations in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Romero said the airline will be ready for launching operation by December, but will have to wait for necessary approval for the rights to operate to India.  "We are looking for a commercial partner and are negotiating with SpiceJet and Air Deccan for code-sharing agreement." 

He said the airline would also like to talk to Jet Airways and Indian Airlines on an interline agreement. An agreement with domestic airlines would help passengers to travel to other destinations within India, he said.

"We are scouting for an airline where we can share synergy in the commercial operations,” he added.

Also in the pipeline is the setting up of an aircraft financing unit that will raise capital to buy new planes that will be leased back to the airline. 

Set up in February 2006 with an authorised capital of Dh1.5 billion, RAK Airways raised an initial capital of Dh850 million through private placements.

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