Shifting Sands – an update on latest developments across the Middle East

The Middle East market has been a story of growth for so many recent years as the development strategies from the likes of Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways has firmly placed the Gulf region on global route maps. But things have got more challenging. Political interference has become a norm, airline strategies have been called to attention and flights have actually been banned between some neighbouring nations across the region.

This new weekly round-up will deliver some of the key aviation and travel news stories from across the Middle East region.


  • FEATURE:  Through web-based virtual reality technology Emirates is offering a 3D visualisation of its aircraft
  • BRIEF: Air Arabia confirms final aircraft delivery for 2018, first A321LR due in early 2019
  • BRIEF: Investments in other airlines remain ‘front and centre’ for Etihad: CEO
  • BRIEF: Bahrain Airport Company aims to restore Bahrain-Nepal connectivity
  • BRIEF: Nepal to sign revised ASA with the UAE soon
  • ROUTE UPDATE: latest route launches and announcements
  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Largest Airlines in Middle East (w/c 25-Jun-2018)

Through web-based virtual reality technology Emirates is offering a 3D visualisation of its aircraft

United Arab Emirates (UAE) carrier Emirates Airline has introduced 3D seat models on its website, becoming the first airline to introduce web virtual reality (VR) technology on its digital platform. The 3D seat model is a visualisation engine that displays an immersive 3D 360 degree view of the interior of the airline’s A380 and 777 aircraft, giving customers a chance to explore their seats, the cabin and the Emirates onboard product.

The new feature allows users to navigate through the Economy, Business and First Class cabins, as well as the iconic Onboard Lounge and Shower Spa on some of its SuperJumbos using navigational hotspots. The high-quality 3D generated graphics offer an excellent render that is close to reality. The immersive experience is now available for just the three class A380 arrangement flown by Emirates but will soon include renderings of Emirates’ entire fleet including all configurations of the A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft.

The 3D 360 degree views of the cabins also feature a virtual reality element. Users can enjoy hands-free cabin navigation and seat selection by using any VR headset like Google Cardboard. The 3D seat models were created in partnership with Renacen who were awarded the Crystal Cabin for the best visionary concept for this project at the recent Crystal Cabin Awards.

Customers accessing emirates.com via their mobile devices or the Emirates app for iOS and Android will also be able to explore their seats before checking in online with the 3D seat map. The tool allows customers to navigate from one seat to another, and even allows would-be customers to book their preferred seats from within the 3D environment.


Air Arabia confirms final aircraft delivery for 2018, first A321LR due in early 2019
Air Arabia has confirmed it has received two A320s, expanding its fleet to 53 aircraft and marking the completion of deliveries for 2018. The airline’s next aircraft delivery will be its first A321LR in early 2019. The carrier expects the A321LR to enable it “to extend its fleet reach and therefore enter new markets as well as better serve existing high density routes”.


Investments in other airlines remain ‘front and centre’ for Etihad: CEO
Etihad Airways CEO Tony Douglas said the carrier’s equity investments in Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Jet Airways and Virgin Australia “are still front and centre of the Etihad Group and important investments and partners”. Mr Douglas also said Etihad intends to “put a lot more emphasis on point to point travel”. The airline’s current fleet plans remain under reconsideration.”We don’t believe that doubling the size is likely to be sustainable at this time, but we’ve got enduring long term relationships with the aircraft manufacturers and therefore that process is constantly under review,” explained Mr Douglas. He also highlighted that “networks need to be reanalysed”.  adding: “Years ago it would’ve been quarterly, today it needs to be almost minute by minute,” he noted.


Bahrain Airport Company aims to restore Bahrain-Nepal connectivity
Bahrain Airport Company CEO Mohamed Yousid Al Binfalah has reportedly met with Nepal’s Ambassador to Bahrain Padam Sundas to discuss plans to collaborate to restore nonstop Bahrain-Nepal services, according to local media reports. Gulf Air and Bahrain Air previously operated Bahrain-Nepal services, according to OAG.


Nepal to sign revised ASA with the UAE soon
Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation undersecretary Pramod Nepal reported Nepal plans to sign a revised air service agreement (ASA) with the UAE in the near future. He said the revised ASA is expected to include provisions increasing the number of services connecting Nepal and the UAE from the present figure of 28 weekly services. Nepal signed its first ASA with the UAE in 1999 and revised ASAs in 2013 and 2015.


Route Updates

  • Cham Wings Airlines launched (05-Jul-2018) weekly Damascus-Moscow Vnukovo service on 04-Jul-2018, operating with A320 aircraft. The carrier is the second Syrian airline operating to Moscow Vnukovo.
  • Qatar Airways replaced (04-Jul-2018) Boeing 787 with A350-900 equipment on its daily Doha – Edinburgh service, increasing capacity by 406 seats per week. The A350 is configured with 36 business class and 247 economy class seats.
  • Jazeera Airways commenced three times weekly Kuwait-Lahore service, effective 26-Jun-2018. The airline operates the service with A320 aircraft.
  • Turkish Airlines plans to launch five times weekly Istanbul Ataturk-Marrakech service from 31-Mar-2019, operating with Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East Fleet Breakdown (w/c 25-Jun-2018)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG