Air Arabia: 20 years of flying high on innovation

The first budget airline in the Middle East, Air Arabia has revolutionised air travel in the region and continues to thrive with pioneering innovation

As the first and largest low-cost carrier in the Middle East and North Africa, Air Arabia has been flying high on innovation for two decades.

The airline, which this month celebrates 20 years of operations, has blazed a trail for other low-cost carriers in the region – including Flydubai, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways, and Saudi Arabia’s Flynas and Flyadeal.

To mark its milestone anniversary, Air Arabia is introducing a new addition to its distinctive livery, a unique 20th anniversary emblem.

Commenting on the airline’s two-decade milestone, Adel Al Ali, Group CEO of Air Arabia, said: “For two decades now, Air Arabia has demonstrated its leadership position by transforming the way air travel is perceived in the MENA region. Air Arabia’s successful trajectory as a driving force behind connecting people, cultures, and economies, has since brought change to the industry, and has grown the market for affordable air travel”.

Air Arabia has been flying high for 20 years

Established in October 2003 with just two Airbus A320s flying short-haul trips to just five destinations, Air Arabia hit profitability within its first year and has since grown into a multi-billion-dollar group – with assets worth over AED13 billion and a multi-brand portfolio spanning aviation, hospitality, tourism, IT, flight operations, ground handling, catering and MRO.

As the UAE’s first and only listed airline, Sharjah-based Air Arabia now serves more than 150 million passengers using an aircraft fleet of 71 and a network of 190 routes – and is the only airline in the region to adopt a multi-hub business model operating from seven strategic hubs, including Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, RAK, Morocco, Egypt, Armenia and Pakistan.

In 2022, Air Arabia carried 13 million passengers, and in 2023, secured record second-quarter profits, reaching AED459 million (US$124.96 million), and landed the Low-Cost Airline of the Year accolade at the 2023 Aviation Achievement Awards.

Behind such revenue growth and global recognition is a commitment to innovation and operational excellence that has seen the airline rank as the highest operating margin in the world and maintain its position as the best utiliser of an Airbus A320 fleet worldwide.

Renowned for using cutting-edge technology to provide real value and convenience to customers, Air Arabia was the first airline in the region to adopt ticketless travel and the first to launch an online rewards programme.

“The value proposition that we promised our customers 20 years ago, to make air travel accessible to a wider audience than ever, continues to define our growth strategy to this day,” comments Ali.

“As we step into a new era of growth, the innovations and efficiencies of our multi-hub business model will be pivotal to connect more travellers from various markets across Asia, Europe, and Africa.”

Adel Al Ali, Group CEO of Air Arabia

Flying into the future

Air Arabia is expected to benefit from the opening of Abu Dhabi International Airport’s new Terminal A on November 1 and will shift its Abu Dhabi operations to the new airport on November 14, along with 10 other airlines.

A well as recently launching new routes from Abu Dhabi to Colombo (Sri Lanka), Abu Dhabi to Amman (Jordan) and Sharjah to Giza City (Egypt), the Group’s Fly Jinnah – a joint venture between Air Arabia and Pakistani conglomerate Lakson Group – is expected to begin international operations by the end of 2023 or the beginning of 2024.

To support the global network expansion strategy, the airline has signed an agreement to lease eight planes that will be added to its fleet in 2024 – as it awaits the 2019 order of 120 Airbus A320 Family aircraft to arrive.

Beginning 2025, the airline is scheduled to receive 20 planes each from until 2030, tripling its current fleet of 71 Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft.

The new jets will deliver a reduction on fuel burn of around 12%, which marks a significant part of the airline’s sustainability journey.

Aligned with the UAE’s Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative, Air Arabia has been taking steps to mitigate the emission of fuel, which includes progressively transitioning its fleet with an average of 4 to 5 years to the newest and most fuel-efficient aircraft on the market and disposing of older, less fuel-efficient aircraft.

The airline is working with Beeah Group to support its programme of recycling and waste disposal and has recycled an estimated 17,000kg of old crew uniforms.

The airline was also among the first to introduce a sustainable CSR initiative with Charity Cloud, an initiative comprising more than 1,000 charitable projects and initiatives providing quality education and healthcare to communities in over 12 countries.


For more business insights, check out the latest edition of Business Chief Middle East & Africa and be sure to follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

You may also be interested in the Business Chief Asia and ANZ website. 

BizClik is a global provider of B2B digital media platforms that cover executive communities for CEOs, CFOs and CMOs, as well as leaders in Sustainability, Procurement & Supply Chain, Technology & AI, Cyber, FinTech & InsurTech. We also cover industries including Manufacturing, Mining, Energy, EV, Construction, Healthcare and Food & Drink.

BizClik, based in London, Dubai, Singapore and New York, offers services such as content creation, advertising and sponsorship solutions, webinars and events.


Featured Articles

SAP creates new EMEA region and announces new President

SAP has announced it has appointed a new President for a newly-created EMEA region, aiming to make the most of the opportunities of cloud and AI technology

Interview: Mohammed Alardhi, Investcorp Executive Chairman

From fighter pilot to fashion house financier, Mohammed Alardhi has taken Investcorp to great heights – so what’s the secret to his success?

COP28 Talks: Red Sea Global’s Dr Omar Al-Attas

Dr Omar Al-Attas, Head of Environmental Protection and Regeneration at Red Sea Global, shares his COP28 hopes and approach to regenerative tourism strategy

COP28 Talks: Red Sea Global's Dr Maryam Ali Ficociello


COP28 Talks: Maryam Telmesani, CSO, Modern Building Leaders


New Sasol CEO to drive South African firm’s emissions plan