An Indian carrier is in the final stages of discussions to start direct flights to Fujairah International Airport (FIA), a senior official told Zawya. The UAE’s northern emirate is also planning to launch its own passenger airline in the near future, the official said.

“We have had several discussions with almost all the carriers from India. Hopefully, we will soon see one of those operators operating from the emirate,” said Esmaeil Mohamed Al Boloushi, General Manager of Fujairah International Airport, a largely cargo-based airport. The name of the carrier is yet to be announced.

Air India, Spice Jet, IndiGo, Air India Express and Vistara are the Indian airlines currently operating scheduled flights to the UAE.

Al Boloushi said FIA was expecting the Indian airline to start operations before Ramadan or soon after Eid. “But things are taking time, and they [the airline] are waiting for the final approval from their top management,” Boloushi said.

Meanwhile, discussions are also in progress with many international carriers from other countries. “We are in discussions with several carriers from the East and West, and we are getting good feedback from them. Hopefully, we will soon have additional air carriers starting operations in Fujairah.”

Airport expansion

Abu Dhabi Airports is leading the expansion of Fujairah International Airport.

In 2018, Abu Dhabi Airports awarded a contract to the joint venture of Orascom Construction and Al Sahraa General Transport & Clearance for the expansion of Fujairah International Airport.

Currently, the secondary runway is 90 percent complete, with a commissioning deadline of August 2022, Al Boloushi said. “Once we finish the handover of the new runway, we will start work on the existing runway extension and rehabilitation, which has a commissioning target date of March 2023.”

Integrated tourism drive

 The government of Fujairah is on an ambitious drive to diversify its economy, especially in the tourism sector, Al Boloushi said.

“We have the strong backing of the Fujairah government. We have instructions to work as a team with the Fujairah Tourism Authority, the aviation department and other government entities to bring tourism to the emirate.”

He continued, “At FIA, we used to focus on cargo, but we realized that focusing on cargo will not help the economy or tourism sector in the emirate. So now we are looking at other options like charter flights and commercial flights to support other Fujairah stakeholders such as the hotels, restaurants and so on; everyone will benefit from the increase in the number of tourists.”

The Fujairah Statistics Centre estimates revealed that hotels and similar establishments in the emirate welcomed 834,152 guests in 2021 and flights through FIA totaled 12,758.

Meanwhile, talks are in progress for the emirate to have its own carrier. “Most of the emirates in the UAE have their own carrier(s). In [the] future, there is a possibility that we may too,” said Al Boloushi without giving further details.

“There are discussions right now, but it is still confidential.”

In January 2012, Eastern Express (formerly known as Al Hajjar Air), the Fujairah-based airline, announced plans to launch the first domestic service between Fujairah International Airport and Abu Dhabi.

According to reports, the carrier had expansion plans across the UAE and other GCC destinations. However, the project did not see the light of the day.