No-frills Air Arabia profits up 21 pct

DUBAI: The budget carrier Air Arabia posted on Saturday around 21 percent increase in net profits for the first half of 2009, bucking a slowdown trend in world travel markets.

The Sharjah-based low-cost carrier said in a statement its net profits for the first half of this year stood at 193 million dirhams (52.6 million dollars), an increase of about 21 percent over the same period last year.

The company's turnover in the first half of the year was up six percent to 922 million dirhams (251 million dollars) while the number of passengers was also up by 20 percent to 1.953 million passengers.

Net profits in the second quarter were meanwhile 10 percent up to 90 million dirhams (24.5 million dollars), compared to the same period last year.

Air Arabia, launched in October 2003, is the Middle East's largest no-frills carrier. It has a fleet of 20 Airbus A320 aircraft and serves 57 destinations.

Earlier this year Air Arabia launched a Moroccan joint venture -- Air Arabia (Maroc) -- using Casablanca as its second hub to serve nine European destinations, in addition to its main hub in the United Arab Emirates.

Air Arabia's healthy performance comes as world travel continues to suffer the impact of the global financial crisis.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on July 30 that passenger demand for June declined 7.2 percent compared to the same month in the previous year.

But Middle Eastern carriers "remained the bright spot" according to IATA, registering a 12.9 percent growth in June, with a growing market share on Asian and European routes.