Kuwait’s low-cost airline Jazeera Airways is to tap into unknown territory next month. On October 27 it is to start flights to London Gatwick, its first into western Europe. Most likely there is more to come, CEO Rohit Ramachandran told Airinsight during the Aviation Festival in London on September 5.
Jazeera Airways celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. For long it has concentrated on routes within the Middle East and Gulf region but recently the Indian subcontinent has become of major importance. Jazeera claims a very high 87 percent market share on the Kuwait-Hyderabad-route, while also serving Delhi, Lahore, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Kochi. About a third of its passengers travel to and from Egypt. Added only last year was Tbilisi (Georgia), while Bodrum, Sabiha and Istanbul (Turkey) followed in Q2. Still to follow are Karachi, Kathmandu, and Dhaka.
In Q2, passenger numbers were up 12 percent to 549.100, yields +11.5 percent and aircraft utilization +2.2 percent to 14.8 hours a day. In HY1, net profits were up 335.1 percent to KWD 6.2 million. Jazeera operates from its own Terminal 5, where it can work according to its own business model.
A320neo opens up new possibilities
Jazeera’s workhorse has been a fleet of ten Airbus A320ceo’s. Then came the A320neo, the first of which arrived through lessor Avolon in June 2018. Jazeera is expecting three more this year after some aircraft have been in storage in Hamburg without engines for some time. Boeing visited Kuwait last January to promote the MAX, but Jazeera seems a solid Airbus-customer for now. The airline hails the 18 percent in fuel savings of the neo over the ceo.
Jazeera’s CEO Rohit Ramachandran at Aviation Festival. (Richard Schuurman)
With the A320neo, all of a sudden now routes have become possible, says Rohit Ramachandran: “The A320neo is able to do stage-lengths of 6 to 6,5 hours, which brings London within its range. London is an important market for Kuwait. We are celebrating 120 years of trading relations this year and many Kuwaiti’s call London their second home. We looked at the numbers and they justified opening services to London Gatwick.” Jazeera expects to connect London Gatwick via Kuwait to many customers in South Asia, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, “all of which have a significant base here in the UK”.
London has been served by flag carrier Kuwait Airways, but Ramachandran sees room for competition: “Since its inception 15 years ago Jazeera has specialized in breaking monopolies. For the last 55 years this route has been served only by the large legacy flag carriers of both countries. We believe as a low-cost carrier we can stimulate significant additional demand. People who travel once a year are now to travel perhaps two to three times a year. In addition, passengers going beyond Kuwait to South Asia would find the service of interest.”
For GBP 299 customers are offered a return flight. Economy passengers have to purchase meals from Jazeera Café, but they are standard for those who travel on one of three rows of Business Class. Seats have ample pitch, while the middle seat is blocked off as a tray table. In Economy pitch is 30 inch. The flight to Gatwick will arrive early afternoon and return to Kuwait only 45 minutes later.
London Gatwick could be the start of an adventure in Europe, Jazeera’s CEO says. “It could be. We will watch very carefully how this route performs. If this route is successful we would also look at other routes and do Manchester, Birmingham, and one or two other points in western Europe.”
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News. From January 2023, he will add a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.