The boss of Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways says the airline has opened its arms to the UK travel trade ahead of the launch of its first route to the UK next month.
The airline has appointed dnata general sales agent in the UK and has convened a sales team of four to promote to agents its new Gatwick-Kuwait route, launching 27 October.
Jazeera claims the daily route is the first low-cost, long-haul service between the UK and the Middle East, and the first between the UK and Kuwait launched by a new airline for more than 50 years.
The route went on sale via Travelport and Amadeus last month, and chief executive Rohit Ramachandran told TTG Jazeera was now preparing to announce a pre-launch event in London for travel agents.
“Low-cost carriers don’t typically do much with agents,” said Ramachandran. “We’re moving away from that approach. We prefer having a strong working relationship with the trade – in fact, we’d welcome it.”
Ramachandran said Jazeera was “actively engaging” with agents, particularly those with specialist knowledge of key demographics such as the Muslim and Hajj travel market, with Jazeera offering onward connections to Jeddah and the Indian subcontinent.
He added the airline’s six connections to Egypt, including Luxor, Sharm el Sheikh and Alexandria, could prove attractive to agents in the UK.
At six and a quarter hours, Gatwick will be Jazeera’s longest route to date, leveraging the six to seven-hour range of its Airbus A320neo aircraft.
The airline plans to expand its current fleet of 10 aircraft to 16 by the end of next year, eight of which will be neos, with a further four neos scheduled to join the fleet during 2021.
Ramachandran revealed to TTG Jazeera was already looking at more European routes, including Manchester, as well as others in western Europe, but stressed the airline’s immediate focus was to make a success of its Gatwick operation.
When pressed on the difficulties posed by the notoriously fickle low-cost long-haul market, Ramachandran said Jazeera – with its neos – was taking a fresh approach to the challenge.
“Since the early 80s, lots of people have tried low-cost long-haul, and by no means is it a proven business model,” he said. “Having a low-cost long-haul wide-body operation has proved a challenging business model.
“We believe we understand the cost dynamics of the A320 narrow-body family well – moving from five-and-a-half hour flights to six-and-a-half hours is still very much in the realm of profitability.
"I also believe flying six-and-a-half hours in a narrow-body sharing with another 140-odd passengers is a better proposition than sharing with another 400.
“And let's be clear, there's currently no other low-cost alternative flying to the GCC [Gulf region] or to the Indian subcontinent from London.”
Ramachandran added he was confident Jazeera would be able to negotiate a more uniform schedule for its operation at Gatwick, with its flights departing between midday and 2pm Monday to Friday and on Sundays, and at 4.40pm on Saturdays.
Jazeera’s economy Gatwick fares lead in from £299pp, premium economy £550pp and business £850pp.
Flights will operate to and from Jazeera's own terminal at Kuwait International airport where Ramachandran said it would be possible for passengers to make it from check-in to their aircraft in 15 minutes, while allowing the airline to more scope to determine passenger experience.