Ras al-Khaimah will launch a new scheduled national carrier by the end of 2006, a senior government official told MEED on 12 December. Speaking on the sidelines of the MEED Middle East Airports conference held in Bahrain, Sheikh Salem bin Sultan al-Qassemi, chairman of the emirate's Department of Civil Aviation, said that an emiri decree had now been issued (MEED 3:6:05).
'We have studied the regional market closely and the airline has been approved by the federal government,' said Sheikh Salem. 'We expect to complete our business plan soon, but we are building a model in two phases. The first will focus on regional operations and be a vehicle for cargo and tourists coming to and from the emirate.' The model is expected to be a hybrid of a low-cost and charter airline, although it remains unclear how the project will be funded. The airline, temporarily named Al-Hamra Airlines, will become the federation's fourth carrier. Its launch is part of a programme in the emirate to upgrade and expand its aviation sector. A team of France's Aeroports de Paris (AdP)and Lebanon's Khatib & Alamiis revising its original 2020 airport masterplan, which is due to be completed by January. Five consortiums made up of European, Asian, US and regional companies have submitted proposals for the expansion project, which is expected to be carried out on some form of build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis. The masterplan calls for the utilisation of an additional 3 million square kilometres and incorporates new cargo and passenger terminals.