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Jazeera Airways

Air operations, Commercial strategy, Expert view

Rising from Obscurity – Jazeera Airways

May 11, 2023

An analysis of Jazeera Airways, a small airline that’s making big moves.

Mike Malik, CMO, Cirium

By Mike Malik, Chief Marketing Officer at Cirium

Gulf carriers like Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad are highly recognized names among travelers. Many of us will also be familiar with the Gulf region’s large and fast-growing low-cost carriers such as Air Arabia and FlyDubai. Even Saudi Arabia’s airlines are now making a splash as well.

Less well known is a smaller low-cost carrier in the Gulf that has been quietly earning strong profits while undertaking ambitious growth. The carrier in question is Jazeera Airways, and it’s becoming harder to ignore.   

Based in Kuwait, Jazeera started flying in 2005 but didn’t grab too much attention in part because it wasn’t a growth airline. In fact, Cirium Diio, the flight analytics system, shows that it offered fewer seats in 2019 than it did in 2009. That’s partly because Jazeera was more than just an airline. For a time, it ran an aircraft leasing business. It still operates its own terminal at Kuwait’s main airport, running it as a business. It’s now also developing a high-margin duty-free retail business, as well as a flight training offering.

But Jazeera was not ignoring the airline business. Far from it. CEO Rohit Ramachandran and his team are growing the carrier’s fleet and capacity at their fastest pace ever. Last year, Jazeera reached a new high in seat capacity, adding more than a dozen new destinations and ending the year with more than 50.

According to Cirium Ascend Fleets Analyzer, Jazeera’s fleet has grown to 20 A320 aircraft, with eleven of them being Neo models. It has 26 Airbus Neo narrowbodies still on order, eight of them A321s. Looking back, Jazeera had just nine planes and zero on order three years ago.

Looking ahead, it plans to have 35 by around 2026 or 2027. By then, it aims to have a network of more than 100 cities.  

The Jazeera network today is heavily focused on intra-Gulf routes, connecting Kuwait to markets like Saudia Arabia and Dubai. During the recent FIFA World Cup, it transported more than 10,000 passengers into and out of Doha. Egypt is a critical market too, alone accounting for almost a fifth of its passenger traffic, though this figure has come down since before the pandemic. The Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka), the source of many migrants working in Kuwait, has increased in importance. Europe and Central Asia are two other areas of expansion. Not long ago, Jazeera’s network even extended to London. It no longer flies there, but its offering does stretch as far north as the Russian capital Moscow (a new route launched in January) and as far east as the Chinese city of Xian (launched last fall).

During a recent earnings call, Ramachandran said Jazeera is now at parity with state-owned rival Kuwait Airways in terms of market share, despite having roughly half as many planes. At times in the past, Jazeera has discussed the possibility of buying Kuwait Airways, but nothing ever came to fruition.

Ramachandran is now hopeful that travel demand from Kuwait will grow as government officials and business executives return to the sky after Covid.

He’s hopeful too of capturing more outbound leisure traffic to tourist destinations in eastern Europe. A big driver of demand for Kuwait’s airlines is the oil sector, including the large pools of foreign labor that work in it.

Will Jazeera ever consider flying widebodies to reach more distant destinations? Can it win more flying rights in strategic markets like Egypt and India? Will its government approve the new “T6” airport terminal Jazeera wants to build, this one envisioned to be much larger than its existing “T5”? Will a new plan to launch a joint venture airline in Saudi Arabia come to fruition? These are all questions for the low-cost airline as it undertakes what it calls its “hyper-growth” phase. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore the ambitious Jazeera Airways.

Be sure to follow Cirium today for the latest insights and analysis on the ever-evolving global aviation industry.

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