India's budget carrier SpiceJet on Wednesday announced plans to launch a new airline with the Ras Al Khaimah International Airport as its base as well as set up its first overseas hub in the UAE emirate, according to media reports.
SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh said at a press conference in Ras Al Khaimah that the carrier is looking to make the emirate its stepping stone into Europe, and has been mulling an international hub as India's airports become more congested.
Ras Al Khaimah is the northernmost emirate of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The emirate would be SpiceJet's first international hub as the carrier looks to boost its connectivity to the Gulf as well as to European destinations.
The airline said it sees "tremendous potential" in Ras Al Khaimah, and will start basing aircraft in the emirate in December 2019, the Gulf News reported.
SpiceJet signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the RAK International Airport on Wednesday to start direct flights between RAK and New Delhi from December.
It will operate five flights a week and aims to gradually increase the frequency, the Khaleej Times reported.
Singh said they have applied for a licence for setting up a new airline which will operate from Ras Al Khaimah and is slated to take off next year.
"We are looking to establish an airline locally based in Ras Al Khaimah. We are applying for certification shortly and the approval will take around three to six months. The new airline will help connect India with Eastern and Western European destination using RAK as hub," Singh said.
SpiceJet will be the sixth airline to operate from the UAE after Emirates, Etihad, Air Arabia, flydubai and the recently-announced Air Arabia Abu Dhabi.
He said that around four to five jets will be based in Ras Al Khaimah and those will be 737 MAX series after they have been certified by the US regulator.
Singh noted that airports in India are getting congested and with new aircraft coming for SpiceJet, the carrier is forced to look at alternatives in the region.
The SpiceJet chief also said the name and destinations for the new airline are still at the discussion stage.
According to him, there is a strong potential to make Ras Al Khaimah a hub for connectivity with Africa, Middle East and Europe.
"Ras Al Khaimah sees strong European tourist inflow so it merits a direct connectivity between," the Khaleej Times report quoted Singh as saying.
Currently, Sharjah-based budget carrier Air Arabia flies from RAK International Airport to certain destinations in Pakistan and Gulf countries.
Singh said he also saw a strong potential in logistics space.
"We have started SpiceJet freighter aircraft and we will be expanding on that as well. We are trying to create a logistics hub at RAK airport for aircraft maintenance and repair operations".
Sheikh Salem bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Department of Civil Aviation Ras Al Khaimah, said they are working towards upgrading travellers experience and adding more routes to and from Ras al Khaimah.
"We continue to develop an extensive portfolio of destinations and airlines for our passengers as we perceive a consistently developing demand for visitors and tourists coming to Ras al Khaimah," said Sanjay Khanna, CEO of RAK International Airport.
The budget carrier has been expanding its Indian as well as international operations aggressively in recent months. SpiceJet, which operates 550 flights on an average every day, has a fleet of 77 Boeing 737s, 32 Bombardier Q-400s and three Boeing 737 freighters, as per a release issued on September 26.