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: UK is ‘really’ in the top group of global markets
  • Air Arabia to grow fleet to 100 plus aircraft by 2025 as it unveils new corporate identity
  • Jordan Tourism Board expects influx of tourists from Europe once LCCs launch services
  • Tourist arrivals to Iran may grow to 7 million in 2018
  • Dubai Duty Free to ‘hit the USD2bn mark’ by end of 2018
  • ROUTE UPDATE: latest route launches and announcements
  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East weekly international seat update

Emirates: UK is ‘really’ in the top group of global markets
Emirates head of commercial operations for the Americas and Europe Hubert Frach stated the airline is growing in the UK, a market to which it has a “very strong commitment”. He told local reporters: “The UK is really in the top group of the global markets, pointing to a strong propensity to fly, robust outbound and inbound travel demand, and a healthy mix of business and leisure”. As previously reported, the airline launched service to Edinburgh on 01-Oct-2018, which represents its eighth destination in the UK.


Air Arabia to grow fleet to 100 plus aircraft by 2025 as it unveils new corporate identity
Air Arabia CEO Adel Ali stated the airline expects to grow its fleet from 60 to more than 100 aircraft by 2025, with plans to place an aircraft order before the end of 2019. He noted the carrier is considering aircraft such as the A320 and A321 along with the A220 and Embraer EJets-E2 family of regional jets, adding: “We would be naïve not to consider all options”. Air Arabia plans to commence talks with banks to discuss financing options in 2019. Mr Ali said: “We are getting new airplanes early next year with longer range that will open few new markets particularly in Africa and few places in Eastern Europe. The aircraft capability will be just under eight hours. We have some rights to go to China that we have not exercised; we have got rights to go to Africa where we are not flying due to aircraft capability”. The airline this week unveiled a new brand identity, including a new aircraft livery and interior colour scheme, in celebration of its 15th anniversary. The carrier stated it corporate identity stems from the idea “Now, more than ever” to reflect its “ambitious, customer relevant and eager personality”, and derives from an idea of ‘Modern Nomads”.


Jordan Tourism Board expects influx of tourists from Europe once LCCs launch services
Jordan Tourism Board digital marketing director Ala al Hindi stated the board expects an “influx of tourists” from Europe once LCC airlines such as Ryanair, easyJet and Norwegian commence services in Nov-2018. Mr al Hindi said: “These flights will place Jordan at a budge price for all European travellers … Jordan is currently working on improving the variety of options available to tourists to meet the demands of various types of travellers”.


Tourist arrivals to Iran may grow to 7 million in 2018
Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation head Ali Asghar Monesan said foreign tourist arrivals to Iran increased 51% year-on-year in 1H2018. Iran recorded 5.1 million foreign tourists in 2017 and the total may reach seven million in 2018 if the growth trend continues.


Dubai Duty Free to ‘hit the USD2 billion mark’ by end of 2018
Dubai Duty Free (DDF) COO Ramesh Cidambi stated that as of 03-Oct-2018 DDF is “still on track to hit the USD2 billion mark” by the end of 2018. According to Mr Cidambi, DDF experienced “good growth in the first six months” of 2018 and “moderation in the third quarter, so as a net result as of the end of September we are about 7% up over last year”. Mr Cidambi attributes this softening of trading in 3Q to “moderation in terms of passenger growth”, “strengthening currencies” and “challenging geo politics”.


Route Updates

  • flydubai will transfer services to several European destinations, including Bucharest, Helsinki, Krakow, Prague and Zagreb, to Dubai International Airport terminal 3, effective 02-Dec-2018, to optimise connectivity with codeshare partner Emirates Airline.
  • Oman Air commenced Muscat-Male service on 28-Oct-2018. The airline operates the service with Boeing 737 aircraft and is the sole scheduled operator on the route, according to OAG.
  • flynas plans to launch three times weekly Dammam-Karachi service on 14-Nov-2018. SaudiGulf Airlines and Pakistan International Airlines will also operate the route.
  • Etihad Airways plans to deploy Boeing 787-9 aircraft on daily Abu Dhabi-Kuala Lumpur service from 20-Dec-2018 and on daily Abu Dhabi-Brussels service from 03-Jan-2019.
  • SunExpress plans to launch weekly Antalya-Bahrain and Trabzon-Bahrain services from 08-Nov-2018, operating with Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East weekly international seat updateSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG