SpiceJet (SG, Delhi Int'l) is targetting Ras Al Khaimah, the northernmost emirate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for growth with plans to develop Ras al Khaimah Int'l Airport into a regional hub for both itself and a nascent subsidiary airline.

To that end, the Indian budget carrier signed a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with Ras Al Khaimah International Airport on Wednesday, October 23.

Speaking to The Khaleej Times newspaper, Ajay Singh, SpiceJet's chairman, said an application for an Air Services Licence (ASL) had been lodged ahead of a proposed 2020 launch. He did not disclose the project's name or its local partner given that foreign entities are restricted to a 49% stake in UAE-flagged airlines.

“We are looking to establish an airline based in Ras al Khaimah. We are applying for certification shortly and the approval will take around three to six months,” he said.

The airline will be equipped with "around four to five jets" - B737 MAX - which will be used to connect India with Eastern and Western Europe. At present, Ras al Khaimah Int'l Airport sees limited scheduled passenger traffic with Air Arabia, Air India Express, Luxair, and Pegasus Airlines its only operators at present.

“We are looking to see Ras Al Khaimah become a stepping stone into European destinations. There is already good traffic between Ras Al Khaimah and Europe and we are connecting Europe to India via Ras Al Khaimah. This is our first international hub,” he added.

On the issue of the MAX, Singh said that while SpiceJet is committed to the type, it is in talks with Airbus (AIB, Toulouse Blagnac) over a possible order for the A321neo Family -LR and -XLR variants.

“We need to have alternatives but our first choice is to see that MAX comes back and that we get to fly [it]”, he said. “Boeing (BOE, Chicago O'Hare) has been a long-term partner for us, we don’t lightly let go of partners … the grounding is much longer than earlier anticipated but we think we owe it to Boeing to support them at this time.”