Saturday, October 01, 2016

Air Arabia: My Preferred Low Cost Airline for Middle East and North Africa

I love the Middle East and the entire African continent. They might not be as mainstream a tourist destination for Indian travelers as Europe, USA and South East Asia, but nonetheless, I have had rich cultural experiences and seen some of the best landscapes on my many visits there. Be it the mighty pyramids of Egypt, the vast Atlas mountains and the Sahara of Morocco, the rich Persian connection in Iran, the Dead Sea of Jordan, the rolling red sand dunes of Wahiba Sands, Oman or the land of Mesopotamia in today’s Turkey, some of these places are nature’s best wonders and the cradle of many of our mighty civilizations and its ensuing religions.

I am based out of Bangalore, India and I made most of these trips to these exotic Middle Eastern and North African countries through Air Arabia, a leading low cost carrier headquartered in Sharjah, UAE. The first time I availed their service, I did so, because they were the cheapest airline on that route. The second time I flew them because they consistently offered me the best value for money in the Middle Eastern and North African corridor. The fact that they serve great veggie meals and provide ample leg room for tall travelers like me meant I flew them whenever I got the opportunity. The only flip side of flying with them is the simple facilities of the Sharjah airport when compared to the glitterati and modern amenities of the Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports.

Air Arabia - low cost carrier for Middle East and North Africa

If you are a budget conscious traveler and wish to explore the Middle East and North Africa on your next holidays, you might be interested in learning more about my Air Arabia flying experiences. And if you plan it well, I am pretty sure that you will end up saving a lot of money while enriching your overall holiday experience. I certainly saved a lot of money even though I flew far and wide with them.

1) Great Prices all Year Around

After flying Air Arabia a couple of times, I subscribed to their online newsletter to get the best deals. The end result was that I flew to as far a destination as Casablanca in Morocco for as cheap as 21,000 Indian Rupees for a return ticket. If you plan well, a 30 minute ferry ride from Casablanca takes you to Portugal. What I am basically trying to say that Europe becomes a great budget option via Air Arabia. They offer flights to Europe too. Personally, I have never flown on those European routes, but if you get a great deal, why not!

2) Connects most Indian cities

I am based out of Bangalore and have always cribbed that flights out of Bangalore are so much more expensive when compared to cities like Mumbai, Delhi or Chennai, which have well established carriers and hence offer great deals. Air Arabia is one such exception. Now, I can avoid all those connecting flights in India and it doesn’t bore an extra hole in my wallet. Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities like Kochi, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Jaipur, Nagpur and Ahmedabad are also well connected to the Middle East and North Africa via Air Arabia.

3) Long Layovers at Sharjah Airport is a Problem

Most Air Arabia flights from India to the Middle East, Northern Africa and Europe flies via Sharjah, its home airport. Unlike Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Sharjah airport is simple and quite basic when it comes to facilities. Be it duty free shopping, connectivity, food or waiting facilities, it leaves a lot to be desired. If the layover is short, this doesn’t matter, but if you have a long layover, you need to think about it and plan accordingly. On my trips, I have spent as long as 24 hours in the Sharjah airport. To kill time, I plan ahead with fully charged devices, a lot of books for reading, a lot of movies and TV shows for entertainment and handy quick bites and snacks for hunger pangs. On one of my recent long layovers at Sharjah airport, I tried out their business lounge, which offers decent internet connectivity, good food, comfortable couches, clean toilets and easy access to charging points. If you have a long layover, getting access to the Air Arabia business lounge is much recommended. It is not too expensive if you are flying economy.

4) Comfortable, Safe and Reliable

I am usually a pretty easy flyer. I sleep peacefully on most of my flights. Hence, I don’t really worry too much about entertainment. All I look for in a flight is safety, ample leg room (as I am 191 cms tall with long legs), simple vegetarian food, on time and someone who doesn’t give me headaches with lost of misplaced baggage. Thankfully, I found all of the above in my many Air Arabia flights and it is one of the main reasons why I keep returning to them.

Do look them up when you get the chance. And if you are a budget traveler interested in Middle Eastern and Northern African countries, then you will definitely find a lot of value in them.

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