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 nearing agreement with Rolls Royce for A380 engines: report
  • Doha’s Hamad International completes first major phase of smart airport programme
  • Iran Air interested in negotiating with ‘any manufacturer’ able to supply aircraft
  • Dubai Airport: India remains top destination country in Sep-2018, North America fastest growing
  • IATA: 2Q2018 financial data confirms decline in performance in Africa and Middle East
  • Thomas Cook Airlines UK to be first cruise charter operator at Abu Dhabi Airport
  • ROUTE UPDATE: latest route launches and announcements
  • DATA SNAPSHOT: This week’s biggest Middle East international routes (w/c 05-Nov-2018)

Emirates nearing agreement with Rolls Royce for A380 engines: report
Emirates Airline is reportedly nearing an agreement with Rolls Royce as it seeks to purchase engines to power its order of up to 36 A380 aircraft. The airline commented on the agreement, saying: “We are getting closer… but have not crossed the line yet”. President Tim Clark reportedly also affirmed the agreement is almost finalised, with the airline looking to take delivery of the Trent 900 engine model. 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.


Doha’s Hamad International completes first major phase of smart airport programme
Doha’s Hamad International Airport completed the first major phase of its smart airport programme, which will enable Qatar Airways to process more than 25% of its passengers using self service check in and bag drop facilities. In partnership with SITA and CCM, Doha airport has successfully commissioned 62 next generation self service check in kiosks and 12 self service bag drops, including future biometric technology capability. A mobile automated visa document check has also been implemented, which enables ground services agents to check a passenger’s visa documentation.


Iran Air interested in negotiating with ‘any manufacturer’ able to supply aircraft
Iran Air CEO Farzaneh Sharafbafi stated the airline is interested in negotiating with “any manufacturer” that can supply aircraft without needing permits from the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Ms Sharafbafi noted: “We welcome any company which is able to provide the airplanes needed by Iran Air. We have even gone after planes such as Russia’s Sukhoi Superjet 100 or planes made by non-European manufacturers”.


Dubai Airport: India remains top destination country in Sep-2018, North America fastest growing
Dubai International Airport has reported India remains Dubai International Airport’s top destination country by customer volume, with total traffic reaching 957,748 during Sep-2018. The UK ranked second with 538,199 customers, followed by Saudi Arabia with 454,929 customers. Other markets of note include Australia (256,848), US (252,264 customers) and China (208,822). The top three cities were London (329,778 customers), Mumbai (199,829) and New Delhi (170,122). The fastest growing regions were North America, up by 15.2%, Africa up 10.9% and CIS growing 6.8%.


IATA: 2Q2018 financial data confirms decline in performance in Africa and Middle East
IATA, in its Oct-2018 Africa and Middle East regional briefing, reported 2Q2018 financial data confirms a year-on-year “decline in industry and regional performance”. EBIT margin for Africa and the Middle East decreased from 6.4% in 2Q2017 to 0.9% in 2Q2018. Passenger yield developments for the region’s key markets were “mixed”. Yield increased 3% for ‘Africa-North America’ and 12% for ‘Middle East-North America’ and yields also grew 3% for the ‘within Africa’ and 7% for the ‘within Middle East’ markets.


Thomas Cook Airlines UK to be first cruise charter operator at Abu Dhabi Airport
Abu Dhabi Airports has announced Thomas Cook Airlines UK will be the first airline to serve Abu Dhabi International Airport as a charter carrier for cruise ships. Passengers will disembark the carrier and proceed to check in counters operated by Etihad Ground Services at the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal. Etihad Ground Services will also provide a secure baggage transfer service.


Route Updates

  • Gulf Air has combined flights to Azerbaijan and Georgia and now operates twice weekly Bahrain-Baku-Tbilisi and Bahrain-Tbilisi-Baku services from 28-Oct-2018 to 30-Mar-2019, utilising A320 aircraft.
  • Air India Express plans to operate services from Kannur International Airport from 09-Dec-2018 serving Abu Dhabi (3x weekly), Dubai (daily), Muscat (4x weekly), Riyadh (3x weekly) and Sharjah (daily).
  • Neos resumed weekly Milan Malpensa-Salalah service with Boeing 787-9 equipment on 05-Nov-2018, according the CAPA Route Changes Database. The carrier is the sole operator on the route.
  • Uni-Top Airlines launched a three times weekly Kunming-Dubai World Central service with A300-600F aircraft on 30-Oct-2018.

  • DATA SNAPSHOT: This week’s biggest Middle East international routes (w/c 05-Nov-2018)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG