As a northern gateway into the UAE, Ras al Khaimah International Airport is renowned for its low-cost credentials and the ease of access it offers to Dubai. Mohammed Qazi, commercial and finance director, explains how the airport keeps cost down in a hyper-competitive market.

Could you please provide some background to Ras al Khaimah International (RAK) Airport?

Mohammed Qazi: Ras al Khaimah International Airport has been there for 35 years. It’s fully operational 24-7, and its runway is 3.8km long, which means that you can land the biggest aircraft currently in service. We’ve got departure, arrivals and cargo terminals, as well as a VIP terminal. Because we manage our own slots, we don’t have any slot restrictions.

In terms of location, we promote ourselves as a northern gateway to the UAE. In terms of the terminals, we’ve recently made some investments, improving the operational efficiency, and increasing the number of check-in desks and departure gates. A few months ago, we signed a ten-year deal with ARINC to invest in the IT operational infrastructure, and we’ve put in a new in-line baggage system, which has just gone live.

The airport itself is based on the principles of encouraging enterprise and entrepreneurship, so, rather than being a monopoly, we work with business partners. Our team specialises in operating airports, then we have separate handling and in-flight catering companies. These are separate legal entities and nothing to do with the set-up of the airport.

We have two air-fuel suppliers in order to stimulate competitive pricing behaviour in that part of the business. So in terms of the key supply chain, it’s not under the umbrella of the airport. That’s something quite different about Ras al Khaimah.

How does the airport position itself in the market?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that RAK operates in a hyper-competitive market. We have six airports in a very small Emirate – Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Dubai World Central, Fujairah and Sharjah – then we’ve got a few more airports close by like Doha International and Oman. Then there is Saudi Arabia, with a potential for 28 new airports.

How to compete is the challenge in question. We pride ourselves on the people side of things; we have a very close working relationship with the airlines and our business partners, and we try to create a supply chain with benefits for all the participants. We have the most competitive price points, and our commercial packages are geared towards making it easy for airlines to start operations or develop routes into Ras al Khaimah.

So we position ourselves as the most low-cost entry point to the UAE. You can choose to go to other UAE airports and pay up to 300% more, or come to us and pay a lot less.

Could you talk some more about RAK’s status as a low-cost airport?

We have a team at the airport with low-cost backgrounds, who understand the cost management side of things and how that links to the airline operations. So we offer competitive costs on landing, parking, handling, catering and fuel.

In addition to that, what’s important for low-cost carriers is turnaround times – when the aircraft lands, and how quickly it can be turned around and flown back out. Because RAK Airport is geared towards a low-cost operational set-up, we don’t have air bridges, and that speeds up the whole process. We keep our prices for landing and parking, and airport-related charges to a bare minimum.

Could you talk about ease of access to other destinations, particularly Dubai?

There are two major motorways that connect Ras al Khaimah to Dubai, and it takes between 40 and 45 minutes from RAK, even at peak hours. Five of the Emirates are on one side of the country, so there’s one road that connects them all. The northernmost part is RAK, then you’ve got Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Sharjah and Umm Al-Qaiwain, all down the same road. Access is easy.

Are there any other advantages offered by RAK that you would like to highlight?

The key advantages of RAK are slot availabilities, a flexible and supportive management team, competitive price points and support packages for airlines. RAK sees the significance and importance of its customers and business partners, and wants to work with them across the whole supply chain to make sure that everyone’s a winner.