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 weekly round-up delivers some of the key aviation and travel news stories from across the Middle East region.

  • Emirates expands travel and lifestyle partnerships with Uber, Emaar Malls
  • Oman Air to take delivery of five 737 MAX 8, three 787-9 aircraft be YE2018
  • Amman Queen Alia International Airport monthly passengers exceed one million milestone
  • Etihad Airways loyalty programme partners with Air Europa
  • EgyptAir selects Panasonic Avionics to supply IFEC systems for 15 A320neo aircraft
  • India’s IndiGo believes that the Middle East market “still has a lot of potential”
  • ROUTE UPDATE: latest route launches and announcements
  • DATA SNAPSHOT: International seats from the Middle East by class (data: w/c 01-Oct-2018)

Emirates expands travel and lifestyle partnerships with Uber, Emaar Malls
Emirates Airline has expanded its travel and lifestyle partnerships with Uber and Emaar Malls as it seeks to continue offering benefits and “greater convenience” to its customers. Emirates’ partnership with Uber offers visitors coming from Australia, South Africa, Egypt, France and Saudi Arabia special airport transfer fares upon arrival in Dubai. Passengers travelling on an Economy Flex Plus fare can enjoy one free ride from Dubai International Airport to anywhere in Dubai, up to the value of AED120. Passengers travelling on an Economy Flex fare can avail 50% off one ride from the airport to anywhere in Dubai, up to the value of AED60.


Oman Air to take delivery of five 737 MAX 8, three 787-9 aircraft be YE2018
Oman’s Ministry of Information, via its official Twitter account, announced Oman Air plans to take delivery of its fourth Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, of which it has 30 on order. The airline plans to take delivery of its fifth 737 MAX 8 by the end of 2018, alongside three 787-9 aircraft.


Amman Queen Alia International Airport monthly passengers exceed one million milestone
Amman Queen Alia International Airport reported monthly passengers exceeded one million for the first time ever in Aug-2018, an increase of +6.8% year-on-year. Cargo increased +16.8% and aircraft movements increased +8.8%. “The increased activity we witnessed was led by the Eid al-Adha holiday, Hajj season and end of the summer vacation, reaffirming our standing as a leading airport in the region,” says Kjeld Binger, CEO of Airport International Group.


Etihad Airways loyalty programme partners with Air Europa
UAE carrier Etihad Airways has announced a new partnership with Air Europa that will allow Etihad Guest members to earn and spend Etihad Guest Miles when flying with the Spanish carrier. Etihad Guest members can also redeem miles for tickets across the Air Europa network. The agreement provides for greater cooperation between the airlines’ frequent flyer programs, Etihad Guest and SUMA, enabling passengers to earn and redeem miles reciprocally. In both cases, the number of miles earned will depend upon the class of travel flown.


EgyptAir selects Panasonic Avionics to supply IFEC systems for 15 A320neo aircraft
Panasonic Avionics and EgyptAir announced an agreement under which Panasonic will provide inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) solutions for the carrier’s new fleet of 15 Airbus A320neo aircraft. Panasonic’s X-Series IFEC will be line-fit installed on the new aircraft, which are due to enter service with the airline from 2020.


India’s IndiGo believes that the Middle East market “still has a lot of potential”
IndiGo chief commercial officer William Boutler has stated the carrier sees potential in the Middle East market. “We believe that the Middle East market still has a lot of potential for us… And we are expanding our reach within the Gulf to include immediately Abu Dhabi and Kuwait, and then other destinations in the future”, he said in an interview. About 15% of IndiGo’s total capacity is deployed internationally, with Mr Boulter noting: “A majority of our international capacity is Gulf based. Roughly about 12% of our total capacity is deployed there (on Middle East routes)… We see the Middle East as having some potential for us. It is a natural extension to our domestic flying, using the same aircraft type”. He also noted: “We fly with the lowest cost per available seat kilometre, among anyone. So, we are confident that the new flights will be profitable additions to our operations”.


Route Updates

  • Emirates Airline said it would reduce Auckland-Bali frequency from daily to four times weekly from 21-Jan-2019 following “a recent review” of its operations.
  • Saudia launched a three times weekly Jeddah-Erbil service on 01-Oct-2018, representing its second destination in Iraq. flynas also operates the route, according to OAG.
  • Caspian Airlines plans to launch twice weekly Mashhad-Bushehr service on 04-Oct-2018, using 160-seat aircraft. Zagros Airlines is the only operator on the route.
  • Air Arabia plans to launch four times weekly Sharjah-Kabul service, commencing 04-Oct-2018. The airline previously operated the route between 2010 and 2014.

  • DATA SNAPSHOT: International seats from the Middle East by class (data: w/c 01-Oct-2018)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG