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RAK Airways lines up Kathmandu and Bangkok under 2012 expansion

3-Feb-2012

RAK Airways’ expansion is rolling on, with the carrier announcing plans to serve Kathmandu from 15-Feb-2012. Kathmandu will become the carrier’s 11th new route added since it re-launched its operations in Oct-2010 after a 12-month suspension of operations.

The carrier will see competition on services between the UAE and Nepal from Flydubai, Air Arabia and Etihad Airways and Nepal Airlines. RAK will face competition from UAE-based carriers that already have well-established operations to Kathmandu. Air Arabia has operated to Kathmandu since Nov-2006, Etihad Airways launched its operations in Oct-2007 and Flydubai debuted in Dec-2009.

UAE-Nepal services

Carrier

Weekly frequencies

Weekly seats

Aircraft

Premium seats

Economy Seats

Air Arabia

14

4536

A320

-

2268

Flydubai

11

4158

737-800

-

2079

Etihad Airways

7

3668

A330-200

154

1680

Nepal Airlines

6

1140

757-200

96

1044

RAK Airways is targeting a mix of business and leisure passengers on the route, a move that fits in with Nepal’s tourism development strategy. Since 2008, the country has been working under a new tourism plan to developing its attractiveness as a tourism market, aimed at increasing the length of visitor stays and overall visitor spending as well as developing new tourism business opportunities through diversification.

RAK Airways is also aiming at labour travel from Nepal. The Nepalese Embassy estimated in 2010 that there were more than 125,000 Nepali nationals in country, although the majority of them were concentrated in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. RAK International Airport is only 30 minutes travel from Sharjah and 45 minutes from Dubai and the carrier offers free shuttle busses between RAK International Airport and other emirates in the UAE.

The new Kathmandu route is consistent with RAK’s new to offer a broad network of routes across the GCC, Indian sub-continent and North Africa. Since resuming operations with Jeddah and Kozhikode in Oct-2010, it has undergone a staged expansion, opening new routes in bunches as it inducted new aircraft.

RAK Airways route launches: 2010-2011

Destination

Launch date

Weekly
frequencies
(initial)

Jeddah

9-Oct-10

4

Kozhikode

9-Oct-10

4

Cairo

15-Dec-10

3

Dhaka

15-Dec-10

3

Chittagong

15-Dec-10

3

Doha

29-Jun-11

4

Peshawar

1-Nov-11

2

Lahore

1-Nov-11

2

Kuwait

20-Nov-11

7

Khartoum

15-Dec-11

3

Bangkok as first medium-haul destination

Breaking out from the pattern of its previous expansion, RAK Airways has also announced plans to launch Bangkok Survarnabhumi service from the beginning of Jun-2012. Bangkok would be the carrier’s first medium-haul service, operated with Boeing 757-200 equipment. The airline plans to operate four weekly frequencies.

Competition between the UAE and Thailand is relatively sedate compared to some of the potential medium/long-haul markets on offer, but there are still almost 50 weekly frequencies between the two counties. Emirates controls the lion’s share of capacity, offering over 11,000 seats per week with a mix of A380, Boeing 777-300ER and 777-300 equipment, some of which continues to Hong Kong or Sydney. Etihad Airways offers twice-daily service, with 777-300ER equipment and the route was Etihad’s busiest in 2011, with the carrier handling more than 500,000 passengers to the Thai capital during the year, despite the local flooding. Thai Airways offers daily service with A330s.

UAE-Bangkok Bangkok Survarnabhumi services

Carrier

Weekly
frequencies

Weekly
seats

Aircraft

Premium
seats

Economy
Seats

Emirates

28

11,284

A380, 777-300,

777-300ER

1673

9,611

Etihad Airways

14

5768

777-300ER

392

5,376

Thai Airways

7

2114

A330

273

1,841

Outside of the UAE-based airlines, Oman Air, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Iran Air, Mahan Air, Kuwait Airways, Gulf Air, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Yemenia and Egypt Air all have direct operations to Bangkok. Altogether, almost 50,000 seats per week are on offer between Malaysia and various destinations in the Middle East.

As its first medium-haul service, the opening of the Bangkok route will be a major step for RAK Airways. Bangkok is a prime leisure and tourism destination for the Middle Eastern carriers. The carrier will bring a point of difference to travel between Bangkok and the Middle East, sector, with its hybrid product offering a mix of lower fares combined with amenities such as free baggage allowances and complimentary meals


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