Sharjah-based low-cost carrier Air Arabia reported a net profit of AED662m ($180m) for the full year 2017, which is 30 per cent higher compared to the figure reported the previous year of AED509m.

Revenue is slightly lower compared to the year-ago figure, at AED3.74bn.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammad al-Thani, chairman of Air Arabia, attributed the company’s profitability to its network expansion strategy and cost control measures. “While political and economic challenges continued to impact the performance of the aviation sector in 2017, we have focused more keenly than ever on ensuring the highest level of operational efficiency and appealing product offering,” he said.

The executive added that his firm remains extremely confident about the long-term fundamentals of the aviation sector in the region, which is driven by “the underlying demand for air travel, major investments in aviation infrastructure and the region’s hub position on the global map”.

According to a statement issued by the carrier, more than 8.5 million passengers flew with Air Arabia in 2017. The average seat load factor – or passengers carried as a percentage of available seats – stood at 79 per cent.

Air Arabia added 21 new routes to its global network in 2017, from its five operating hubs in the UAE, Morocco, Egypt and Jordan. The carrier also took delivery of four new aircraft, taking its active fleet to 50 Airbus A320 aircraft operating on 140 routes across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe.

In November, the carrier signed an eight-year lease contract for six Airbus A321neo aircraft from US-based Air Lease Corporation. The deal is valued at more than $2.79bn based on current list prices.

Air Arabia CEO Adel al-Ali said the deal will help Air Arabia add long-haul destinations to its network, particularly to Southeast Asia and Africa as well as Eastern Europe.

A $400m expansion of Air Arabia’s main hub, Sharjah International airport, is also under way.

US-based Parsons won a project management services contract in March 2017 for the planning, design, construction and commissioning of the airport’s expansion.

The project will include numerous facilities, as well as the expansion of the passenger terminal building and the widening of roads to and from the airport. The planned expansion will take the airport’s capacity from 8 million to 25 million passengers annually.

Parsons’ role includes overseeing the expansion work and the preparation of tender documents.

The enabling works package and the contract to build a sewage treatment plant (STP) at the airport are among the first expansion-related contracts that will be awarded.