The airline, which will have a paid-up capital of AED 10 million ($2.7 million) and an operating capital of AED 50 million ($13.6 million), will be government-funded and managed jointly by Sharjah’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) and Sharjah Airport Authority. Operating from Sharjah, Air Arabia is expected to carry some 300,000 passengers in its first year of operation. Pending the commercial viability of the venture, the long-term plan is to float the airline as a private company.

Sharjah airport is also planning a year of expansion following an encouraging increase in traffic during 2002. Total passenger throughput grew year-on-year by 19.4 per cent to break the 1 million mark, while freight handling rose by 19.5 per cent to reach almost 500,000 tonnes.

Plans to press ahead with the development of a new terminal that could double the airport’s capacity to about 3 million passengers a year are taking shape. Two consultants, the UK’s Halcrow Groupand Australia’s GHD, are competing for the contract to produce detailed designs for the upgrade. An award is expected soon (UAE, MEED Special Report, 19:7:02, page 32).