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 Group chairman and CEO expects next six months will be ‘tough’
  • Jazeera Airways launches free inflight entertainment service
  • Air Arabia chairman: Long term outlook for LCC travel is ‘fundamentally strong’ despite challenges
  • Amman Airport: ‘Targeting Middle Eastern diaspora going home … could be a feasible option’
  • SaudiGulf Airlines signs agreement to purchase 10 A320neo family aircraft
  • Emirates Group sees 42% rise in fuel costs, accounting for 33% of operating costs
  • ROUTE UPDATE: latest route launches and announcements
  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East in-service fleet by manufacturer (as at 19-Nov-2018)

Emirates Group chairman and CEO expects next six months will be ‘tough’
Emirates Group chairman and CEO Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum stated he anticipates the next six months will be “tough”, however the group’s foundations “remain strong”. He stated the airline’s hub in Dubai continues to attract travel demand, with 9% more customers enjoying Dubai in H1FY2018/19. The airline expects the demand to remain healthy as new attractions come online and the city gears up for Dubai Expo 2020. Moving forward, Emirates is “firmly” focused on business sustainability, and “we will do this by being agile to capitalise on opportunities, and investing to serve our customers even better with high quality products that they value”.


Jazeera Airways launches free inflight entertainment service
Jazeera Airways has launched a free inflight entertainment service for all its services, which will be available on iOS and Android devices. The ‘Jazeera Screens’ service can be downloaded through the app before boarding, and represents the first Bluebox Wow wireless entertainment service to be deployed by a commercial airline in the Middle East. Developed in partnership with Bluebox Aviation Systems, Aeroplay Entertainment and Global Onboard Partners, Jazeera Screens will evolve to include on-board shopping in the coming year.


Air Arabia chairman: Long term outlook for LCC travel is ‘fundamentally strong’ despite challenges
Air Arabia chairman Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohamed Al Thani reported the global economic outlook “remains under renewed pressure and airlines worldwide have been challenged by pressured yield margins and increase in cost structure while political and economic tensions continue to drive currency and oil price volatility”. Sheikh Al Thani said Air Arabia believes “such impactful challenges are temporary and the long term outlook for the low cost travel in the region remains fundamentally strong”. The airline confirmed turnover increased 8% to AED2.8 billion (USD762.3 million) for the first nine months of 2018 year-on-year, while net profit decreased 17% to AED530 million (USD144.3 million) year-on-year. The airline said it reported a “robust” financial performance despite the strong impact of high oil price and currency devaluation on the industry’s bottom line.


Amman Airport: ‘Targeting Middle Eastern diaspora going home … could be a feasible option’
Amman Queen Alia International Airport chief commercial and customer officer Deema Anani has indicated the airport is interested in attracting airlines from Asia, Latin America and Africa, noting: “Targeting Middle Eastern diaspora going home via Jordan could be a feasible option”.


SaudiGulf Airlines signs agreement to purchase 10 A320neo family aircraft
SaudiGulf Airlines has signed an agreement to purchase 10 A320neo family aircraft from Airbus. The carrier also took 10 options. Deliveries are due to commence in 2023. SaudiGulf Airlines currently operates a fleet of six A320 aircraft from its hub in Dammam. Sheikh Tariq Abdulhadi Al Qahtani, Chairman of Al-Qahtani Aviation and SaudiGulf Airlines, said: “As a premium service boutique airline we are excited to be adding the A320neo to our fleet. This expansion is in keeping with our intention to see the Saudi aviation sector continue to develop and grow in support of the Saudi Vision 2030.” Alongside these ten aircraft, SaudiGulf Airlines plans to add further A320neos from the leasing market.


Emirates Group sees 42% rise in fuel costs, accounting for 33% of operating costs
Emirates Group reported operating costs rose 13% year-on-year for H1FY2018/19. On average, fuel costs were 42% higher year-on-year, which was largely due to an increase in oil prices (up 37%), as well as an increase in fuel uplift of 4% due to Emirates’ expanding fleet operations. Fuel remained the largest component of the airline’s cost, accounting for 33% of operating costs compared with 26% in the first six months of 2017. Operating capacity rose 3%.


Route Updates

  • flydubai plans to launch twice weekly Dubai-Shymkent service from 29-Dec-2018, operating with Boeing 737 aircraft. The carrier also plans to increase Dubai-Astana frequency from four to five times weekly from spring 2019.
  • Qatar Airways plans to increase Doha-Montreal frequency to four times weekly from 17-Dec-2018, utilising Boeing 777 aircraft. The airline is the sole operator on the route.
  • Saudia reportedly plans to resume daily service from Jeddah to Kozhikode Calicut Airport on 03-Dec-2018. The airline has reportedly suspended a frequency to Kochi to accommodate the new service.
  • LOT Polish Airlines plans to resume Warsaw-Beirut service from 14-Jun-2019. The carrier plans to operate the service until 15-Sep-2019 and consider the possibility of extending the service to winter 2019/2020, subject to demand. LOT suspended the service in Sep-2016, according to OAG.
  • British Airways plans to deploy Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on London Heathrow-Abu Dhabi service between 15-Dec-2018 and 31-Jan-2019, replacing 787-9 aircraft, reports AirlineRoute.
  • Pegasus Airlines plans to launch daily Jeddah service from 01-Dec-2018 and daily Sharjah service from 13-Dec-2018 from its Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport base.
  • Philippine Airlines plans to suspend three times weekly Manila-Abu Dhabi service, effective 12-Jan-2019, according to a 15-Nov-2018 GDS display. As previously reported by CAPA, the airline resumed the service in late Oct-2017 after suspending it in Jul-2017.

  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East in-service fleet by manufacturer (as at 19-Nov-2018)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG