The Sharjah-based low-cost carrier will begin operations from Casablanca to southern Europe and around Morocco from January or February 2009, in a joint venture with the local carrier Regional Air Lines and backed by Bahrain’s Ithmaar Bank.

The Moroccan hub had been scheduled to open by the end of 2008, but the two airlines are still finalising their destination network in Europe (MEED 21:5:08).

Regional currently flies to Gran Canaria, Valencia, Malaga and Seville in Spain, and to Lisbon in Portugal.

An Air Arabia official says the two carriers are considering adding one or two destinations in southern France to that list.

Casablanca will be Air Arabia’s third international hub.

The airline opened its second hub in Nepal in January, launching a joint venture called FlyYeti.com, with the local carrier Yeti Airlines.

The airline is still in discussions with governments over a fourth hub in the Levant or North Africa.

A company official says the carrier is close to a decision and will make an announcement in the coming weeks.