Air Arabia eyes 100-jet order this year after record 2017 profit

Updated 07 March 2018
0

Air Arabia eyes 100-jet order this year after record 2017 profit

BENGALURU: Middle East budget carrier Air Arabia will add more destinations and could order around 100 narrow-body aircraft this year, thanks to rising demand in Egypt and other hubs, Chief Executive Adel Ali said on Wednesday.
The expansion from the United Arab Emirates’ only publicly listed airline comes amid rising oil prices and after a year in which Air Arabia’s profit increased 30 percent to a record 662 million dirhams ($180 million), as it flew more passengers and operated more routes.
The airline is considering placing new orders for the first time in several years to support future growth.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a purchase order. The leasing market is pretty good,” Ali said in an interview in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru.
In November, Air Arabia announced a leasing agreement for six Airbus A321neo long-range jets from US-based Air Lease Corp.
“Our technical team and financial team are working with both Boeing and Airbus,” Ali said.
The Sharjah-headquartered airline currently operates an all-Airbus A320 narrow-body fleet of around 50 jets.
Ali did not rule out a deal for CSeries jets made by Canada’s Bombardier, though suggested a preliminary agreement by an airline Air Arabia now partly owns was no longer valid.
Petra Airlines, in which Air Arabia bought a 49 percent stake three years ago, signed a letter of intent with Bombardier in 2014 to buy up to four CSeries jets in a deal worth up to $300 million at list prices.
“Petra as an airline was finished a long time ago. That’s history. Everything that was there is gone,” he said.
Petra was rebranded Air Arabia Jordan in 2015 with the opening of Air Arabia’s fourth hub in Amman.
Ali said Air Arabia would sharpen its focus on Egypt this year as demand increases.
“We see the tourists coming back, trade is coming back. We have slowed down in Egypt for some time now because of geopolitical and economic uncertainties. We now see certainty there,” he added.
The carrier also expects to grow in Russia and some former Soviet states this year. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held in Russia, which is expected to spur demand.
Air Arabia plans to add more routes in India, Ali said. The airline already operates a handful of routes in the country, a booming aviation market.


Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

Updated 22 March 2019
0

Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

  • A Ramallah-based economics professor said the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel
  • Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority faces a suffocating financial crisis after deep US aid cuts and an Israeli move to withhold tax transfers, sparking fears for the stability of the West Bank.
The authority, headed by President Mahmud Abbas, announced a package of emergency measures on March 10, including halving the salaries of many civil servants.
The United States has cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid in the last year, though only a fraction of that went directly to the PA.
The PA has decided to refuse what little US aid remains on offer for fear of civil suits under new legislation passed by Congress.
Israel has also announced it intends to deduct around $10 million a month in taxes it collects for the PA in a dispute over payments to the families of prisoners in Israeli jails.
In response, Abbas has refused to receive any funds at all, labelling the Israeli reductions theft.
That will leave his government with a monthly shortfall of around $190 million for the length of the crisis.
The money makes up more than 50 percent of the PA’s monthly revenues, with other funds coming from local taxes and foreign aid.

While the impact of the cuts is still being assessed, analysts fear it could affect the stability of the occupied West Bank.
“If the economic situation remains so difficult and the PA is unable to pay salaries and provide services, in addition to continuing (Israeli) settlement expansion it will lead to an explosion,” political analyst Jihad Harb said.
Abbas cut off relations with the US administration after President Donald Trump declared the disputed city of Jerusalem Israel’s capital in December 2017.
The right-wing Israeli government, strongly backed by the US, has since sought to squeeze Abbas.
After a deadly anti-Israeli attack last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would withhold $138 million (123 million euros) in Palestinian revenues over the course of a year.
Israel collects around $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through its ports, and then transfers the money to the PA.
Israel said the amount it intended to withhold was equal to what is paid by the PA to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis last year.
Many Palestinians view prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes of the fight against Israeli occupation.
Israel says the payments encourage further violence.
Abbas recently accused Netanyahu’s government of causing a “crippling economic crisis in the Palestinian Authority.”
The PA also said in January it would refuse all further US government aid for fear of lawsuits under new US legislation targeting alleged support for “terrorism.”

Finance Minister Shukri Bishara announced earlier this month he had been forced to “adopt an emergency budget that includes restricted austerity measures.”
Government employees paid over 2,000 shekels ($555) will receive only half their salaries until further notice.
Prisoner payments would continue in full, Bishara added.
Nasser Abdel Karim, a Ramallah-based economics professor, told AFP the PA, and the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel.
The PA undertook similar financial measures in 2012 when Israel withheld taxes over Palestinian efforts to gain international recognition at the United Nations.
Abdel Karim said such crises are “repeated and disappear according to the development of the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Israel or the countries that support (the PA).”
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including now annexed east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and Abbas’s government has only limited autonomy in West Bank towns and cities.
“The problem is the lack of cash,” economic journalist Jafar Sadaqa told AFP.
He said that while the PA had faced financial crises before, “this time is different because it comes as a cumulative result of political decisions taken by the United States.”
Abbas appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on March 10 to head a new government to oversee the crisis.
Abdel Karim believes the crisis could worsen after an Israeli general election next month “if a more right-wing Israeli government wins.”
Netanyahu’s outgoing government is already regarded as the most right-wing in Israel’s history but on April 9 parties even further to the right have a realistic chance of winning seats in parliament for the first time.
Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014, when a drive for a deal by the administration of President Barack Obama collapsed in the face of persistent Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.