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. We also can’t  forget the significant growth in Saudi Arabia, one of the largest markets in the region and a nation embarking on a major tourism development.

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 neighbouring nations across the region. We have even started to see declines in demand in some markets, something that would have been unheard off just a couple of years earlier. But, there remains optimism that the market will continue its growth and International Air Transport Association (IATA) has lofty predictions for growth into the coming decades.

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


  • FEATURE: Etihad offers pilots secondment programme with Emirates
  • BRIEF: Qatar Airways to phase out A330Fs in favour of 777Fs
  • BRIEF: Abu Dhabi International Airport to enhance tourist experience with new initiatives
  • BRIEF: First Emirati restaurant opens at Dubai International Airport
  • BRIEF: British Airways, American Airlines, Qatar Airways authorised to codeshare with wet leased aircraft
  • BRIEF: Kuwait to issue tender for second phase of Kuwait Airport terminal construction
  • ROUTE UPDATE: latest route launches and announcements
  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Largest Airlines in Middle East (w/c 25-Jun-2018)

Etihad offers pilots secondment programme with Emirates

There have long been suggestions that the best move for United Arab Emirates (UAE) aviation would be for Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways to join forces. After all, the Emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi were historically joined together with their neighbours for many years under the Gulf Air multi-national brand.

It remains questionable if the UAE can sustain two major hubs so close together and Etihad, the younger of the two airlines, has found it hard to carve out a strategy. But rumours of a merger between the two have been strongly denied by both parties. Now, as Etihad continues a business restructuring, it has emerged it has issued an email to flight crew inviting expressions of interest from pilots to join Emirates under a two year secondment programme.

Under the plan Etihad pilots would be placed on a leave of absence and retain seniority while receiving salary and benefits from Emirates. Etihad Airways revealed this is something it has done “for several years with partner airlines around the world” and added: “Such programmes enable airlines to effectively manage their pilot resources”. Emirates has confirmed it is “working with Etihad on a secondment programme for some of their pilots”.


Qatar Airways to phase out A330Fs in favour of 777Fs
A new CAPA – Centre for Aviation report entitled: ‘Qatar Airways to dispose of A330F fleet, intensifies price competition’, has highlighted Qatar Airways plans to return three leased Airbus A330Fs when the leases expire in 2019 and is considering selling its five owned A330Fs. The airline has an LoI for another five Boeing 777Fs, which will make it the second largest 777F operator after FedEx. In addition to five A330Fs recently parked by Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways’ A330F disposals could mean that one third of the A330F fleet is on the market from a few lessors and airline owners, creating price competition and perhaps the need for some creativity as owners with only one or two A330Fs partner with others for bigger deals to customers. There is opportunity for airlines that could not take a brand new A330F to take a relatively young used A330F. Qatar Airways is the second largest A330F operator, after Turkish Airlines.


Abu Dhabi International Airport to enhance tourist experience with new initiatives
Abu Dhabi International Airport has announced plans to enhance the tourist experience by implementing a range of initiatives. These include a new transit visa counter set up at the T3 transit area, which will allow passengers of all nationalities to activate the new four day or 96 hour transit visa; a BizTweet service, an automated flight information service that provides real time flight updates to all passengers via Twitter and Facebook; a Smart Travel system that decreases airport processing time by up to 70% through its five step automated processing; enhanced retail offering that includes new baggage storage facilities and FIFA fan zones; and a VIP terminal offering government entities discounted rates for membership to the diamond lounge.


First Emirati restaurant opens at Dubai International Airport
Travellers at Dubai International Airport can now enjoy a home-grown concept taking inspiration from the coffeehouses found in old Dubai and the alleys of the Al Fahidi neighbourhood with the opening of the S34 Gahwa Mezza Bar in Terminal 3. The restaurant will offer local cuisine with a true taste of the Emirates and the Middle East. It is located near gate C35, Concourse C, Terminal 3 at Dubai International.


British Airways, American Airlines, Qatar Airways authorised to codeshare with wet leased aircraft
The US Department of Transportation has granted American Airlines and British Airways authorisation to codeshare on services between points in the EU and points in the EU and third countries, using aircraft wet leased from Qatar Airways. Qatar Airways also received authorisation to operate the codeshare for British Airways on a wet lease basis.


Kuwait to issue tender for second phase of Kuwait Airport terminal construction
Kuwait’s Ministry of Public Works reportedly plans to issue a tender for the second phase of Kuwait International Airport’s terminal construction. The second phase would comprise the development of new buildings, the construction of the access road as well as new parking spaces. Preparatory works are already underway, with phase two already approximately 8.4% complete.


Route Update

  • Qatar Airways plans to increase Doha – Rome Fiumicino frequency from 16 to 20 times weekly, effective 03-Jul-2018, according to the CAPA Route Changes Database. The airline also serves Milan Malpensa, Pisa and Venice in Italy.
  • Air Arabia Egypt has commenced twice weekly Sharm El Sheikh – Beirut service. Air Arabia also operates Sharjah-Beirut service, according to OAG.
  • flydubai commenced daily Catania service on 13-Jun-2018 and three times weekly Thessaloniki service on 15-Jun-2018. The services mark the airline’s first destinations in Italy and Greece.
  • Gulf Air has deployed its new Boeing 787-9 on its twice daily Bahrain – London Heathrow service. The aircraft is configured with 26 ‘Falcon Gold’ class and 256 economy class seats. The airline expects to receive five 787-9s in 2018, two in 2019 and another three by the end of 2020.
  • Oman Air will commence a four times weekly Muscat-Casablanca service with Boeing 787-8 equipment on 01-Jul-2018. The airline also confirmed plans to commence Moscow service in Oct-2018.
  • SalamAir commenced three times weekly Muscat-Baku and Muscat-Tbilisi services on 15-Jun-2018. The services operate with A320 aircraft.
  • Kish Air commenced 25-Jun-2018 a daily Tehran – Kish – Dubai and twice weekly Tehran – Kish – Muscat services.

DATA SNAPSHOT: Largest Airlines in the Middle East(w/c 25-Jun-2018)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG