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Jazeera Airways aims to use short-haul jets on its long-haul routes

London

AFTER a surge in narrow-body plane flights across the Atlantic, Mideast discount carrier Jazeera Airways aims to push the model to its limits with services between Europe and South-east Asia using the single-aisle jets.

Jazeera wants to acquire Airbus SE's long-range A321neo LR narrow-body to open up the prospect of a 15-hour trip from London to Thailand with a stop at its Kuwait hub, and is even considering the XLR version to allow flights as far as Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China.

That would challenge services provided by Persian Gulf giant Emirates via Dubai using planes four times the size, while testing passenger tolerance for inter-continental travel on single-aisle aircraft.

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Jazeera is already adding a route from Kuwait to London that will be the world's longest with an A320neo.

"The XLR would be a natural progression," founder Marwan Boodai said in an interview. "When you go east you get a much wider market. You can reach Thailand and Manila and many other destinations with a high density that we can serve best as a low-cost carrier."

Narrow-body flights are enjoying a resurgence across the Atlantic, but have yet to penetrate the Asia-Europe market.

Mr Boodai said discount services need to use single-aisle jets to control capacity, pointing to low-cost giant AirAsia Group Bhd's recent move to switch part of an A330neo wide-body order to the XLR.

"We want the flexibility of a narrow-body and to be able to fill it, rather than the theoretical advantage of a wide-body," he said. "The A330's seat-mile costs are attractive, but can airlines fill it with the consistency they need?"

Jazeera chief executive officer Rohit Ramachandran said Kuwait's position in the north of the Gulf permits narrow-body flights to Europe that would be impossible from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.

The carrier will launch London flights on Oct 27, with return fares from £299 (S$513), while a route to Dhaka in Bangladesh starting December will stretch the network further east.

Jazeera will swell its A320neo fleet from one plane now to eight by the end of next year and aims to have double that number by 2023, on top of which it's mulling a requirement for around 25 more neos that could include the A321neo LR or XLR, Mr Ramachandran said in an interview on Thursday.

Shorter routes within the usual four or five-hour range of an A320 will remain Jazeera's primary focus and the carrier aims to add another 20 such destinations, mainly in India, the Middle East and central Asia, he said. BLOOMBERG