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 and Rolls-Royce talks over A380 engines reportedly stalled over fuel burn, price and deliveries
  • IndiGo says Kuwait ‘holds immense potential’
  • Gulf Air introduces new baggage policy based on pieces rather than weight
  • Qatar Airways is ‘short of aircraft’
  • SalamAir CEO sees ‘higher than ever’ demand among travellers for convenient, affordable travel
  • Air India Express transfers Abu Dhabi Airport operations to T1
  • ROUTE UPDATE: latest route launches and announcements
  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East – North America weekly system capacity (data: w/c 15-Oct-2018)

Emirates and Rolls-Royce talks over A380 engines reportedly stalled over fuel burn, price and deliveries
Emirates and Rolls-Royce negotiations on engines for an order for 20 A380 aircraft reportedly stalled over concerns relating to fuel burn, pricing and delivery schedules, reports Bloomberg. Emirates placed a firm order for 20 A380s, along with 16 purchase options, in Feb-2018. Emirates stated at the time that its A380 fleet operates both Engine Alliance and Rolls-Royce engines, and it was evaluating engine options for the A380 order.


IndiGo says Kuwait ‘holds immense potential’
IndiGo inaugurated operations to its tenth international destination with the launch of Chennai-Kuwait service on 15-Oct-2018. The Indian LCC will also launch daily service to Kuwait from Ahmedabad and Kochi in Nov-2018, catering to both the business and leisure markets. Indigo’s chief commercial officer William Boulter commented the airline will operate 63 daily frequencies between the Middle East and India as a result of the new services, adding: “Kuwait holds immense potential for IndiGo, and this launch is part of organic expansion within the Gulf for us, as we complement our domestic network with international connectivity”.


Gulf Air introduces new baggage policy based on pieces rather than weight
Gulf Air plans to introduce a new baggage policy, effective 28-Oct-2018. The current weight concept will be replaced by a piece concept allowance and passengers will be entitled to one, two or three bags free of charge, depending on their fare type, route and Gulf Air Falconflyer status. The airline said the new system provides increased baggage allowances on “many” routes, simplified excess baggage rates and greater benefits for Falconflyer members. CCO Vincent Coste said: “Generous allowance will be given to premium and Falconflyer passengers while we offer choices for customers with minimum baggage to pay less for their tickets”.


Qatar Airways is ‘short of aircraft’
Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker has stated: “We don’t have any excess aircraft. As a matter of fact we are short of aircraft,” in a recent interview. He added: “I want to stress I have no spare aircraft capacity at the moment”. Mr Al Baker also reported the airline is operating larger aircraft than necessary aircraft to some destinations due to the blockade of Qatar by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, stating: “They are narrowbodied markets and we are operating with widebodied aircraft to carry additional fuel to reach those destinations”.


SalamAir CEO sees ‘higher than ever’ demand among travellers for convenient, affordable travel
SalamAir CEO Mohamed Ahmed stated the airline is seeing “higher than ever” demand among travellers for “convenient and affordable” travel, especially in light of increased Qatar-Oman air connectivity and economic activity, reports the Gulf Times. The airline opened an office facility in Doha on 07-Oct-2018, marking a “landmark moment in the ongoing progression and expansion of SalamAir”, Mr Ahmed said. He added: “As an agile operator we will continue to look at how we enhance this service which is a giant step towards achieving our vision of increasing connectivity to thriving tourism and commercial hubs in the region”.


Air India Express transfers Abu Dhabi Airport operations to T1
Abu Dhabi Airports has confirmed that Air India Express has moved arriving and departing services at Abu Dhabi International Airport at terminal 1, following the transfer of its arriving services from terminal 2 to T1 on 30-Sep-2018. The LCC connects Abu Dhabi to six destinations in India, including Delhi, Cochin, Mangalore, Trivandrum and Calicut.


Route Updates

  • Emirates Airline plans to deploy A380 aircraft on Dubai-Saint Petersburg service between 25-Oct-2018 and 29-Oct-2018, replacing Boeing 777 aircraft and in response to increased demand.
  • flynas plans to commence twice weekly Dammam-Arar and daily Dammam-Dubai services from 05-Nov-2018.
  • Air Arabia Egypt plans to launch twice weekly Asyut-Jeddah service on 14-Mar-2019, utilising A320 aircraft. The airline will be the sole operator on the route from Mar-2019 onwards, according to OAG.
  • Qatar Airways will boost frequencies on Doha-Copenhagen from 14 to 18 times weekly from 14-Dec-2018 with the extra frequencies flown by a mix of A350-900, Boeing 777-300ER and 787-8 aircraft.
  • Zagros Airlines plans to launch four times weekly Tehran-Yazd roundtrip service, with McDonnellDouglas MD-80 equipment.
  • Azur Air plans to operate Sochi-Dubai charter service on 30-Dec-2018, 06-Jan-2019 and 13-Jan-2019 with Boeing 737-800 aircraft, in partnership with Anex Tour.
  • Lion Air Group has launched services from West Java Kertajati International Airport to Madinah for Umrah pilgrims on 13-Oct-2018. The airline said Kertajati Airport has potential to be a base for operations between West Java and Saudi Arabia.
  • Oman Air plans to suspend four times weekly Muscat-Najaf service, effective 10-Nov-2018. Najaf is the airline’s only destination in Iraq, according to OAG.

  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East – North America weekly system capacity (data: w/c 15-Oct-2018)
    Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG