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

  • El Al withdraws high court appeal against flights via Saudi airspace
  • Emirates Airline retains UAE top spot in 2018 edition of YouGov’s annual Brand Index
  • Etihad to introduce 787-9 to Rabat to bring equipment consistency to Morocco services
  • UAE gains enhanced Canadian connectivity via expanded air transport agreement; Emirates and Etihad immediately boost Toronto frequencies
  • Nepal Airlines seeks hotel accommodation offers for crews in Dubai and Riyadh
  • Dubai Tourism and Al Tayyar Travel Group form strategic alliance
  • ROUTE UPDATE: latest route launches and announcements
  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Largest Middle East airlines by fleet size (as at Jul-2018)

El Al withdraws high court appeal against flights via Saudi airspace
El Al withdrew its petition to Israel’s Supreme Court that sought to restrict any new services to the country via Saudi Arabia’s airspace until it could also use the shortened route, it has been confirmed. El Al said its decision followed a hearing on the matter on 18-Jul-2018 but did not provide further details. Israel’s Supreme Court had reportedly earlier advised El Al to drop the petition it filed in Mar-2018 against Air India’s direct route from New Delhi to Tel Aviv. In its petition against Air India, the state of Israel, the Ministry of Transportation and the Israel Airports Authority, El Al requested the court to either secure permission for its airlines to pass over Saudi Arabia airspace or prohibit Air India to have the same access. Air India is the first commercial airline to be allowed to operate to/from Israel over Saudi Arabia, which does not maintain official diplomatic ties with Israel.


Emirates Airline retains UAE top spot in 2018 edition of YouGov’s annual Brand Index
Emirates Airline maintained its top ranking for the second year in the YouGov BrandIndex’s annual brand health rankings for the UAE. The airline maintains its dominant position among UAE consumers, ahead of companies such as Google, WhatsApp, and YouTube. The rankings are based on the YouGov BrandIndex Index score, which measures overall brand health. The score takes into account consumers’ perception of a brand’s overall quality, value, impression, reputation, satisfaction and whether consumers would recommend the brand to others. Google tops the global brand health rankings in a list dominated by digital brands.


Etihad to introduce 787-9 to Rabat to bring equipment consistency to Morocco services
Etihad Airways plans to replace Airbus A330-300 with Boeing 787-9 equipment on its Abu Dhabi-Rabat service, effective 03-Oct-2018. The carrier said the aircraft change will enable “full product consistency, the latest inflight technology and increased cargo capacity” on its Morocco services. The airline also deployed 787 equipment on Casablanca service in May-2018. Its three-class version of the 787-9 features 8 private First Suites, 28 Business Studios and 199 Economy Smart Seats. Etihad has been serving Rabat since Jan-2016, providing the only long haul link from the city. To meet summer peak travel demand, it recently added a third weekly service to Rabat, operating every Saturday through to 29-Sep-2018.


UAE gains enhanced Canadian connectivity via expanded air transport agreement; Emirates and Etihad immediately boost Toronto frequencies
Transport Canada has announced Canada has expanded its air transport agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The agreement allows each government to allocate 68% more capacity among its designated air carriers, and also contains four dedicated frequencies for all-cargo flights for the first time. The new rights under the expanded agreements are available for use by airlines immediately and Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways have already confirmed plans to boost their three times weekly flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Toronto to five times weekly from 18-Aug-2018 and 28-Oct-2018, respectively. The expanded agreement was reached under Canada’s Blue Sky policy, which encourages long-term, sustainable competition and the development of international air services. Under the policy, the Government of Canada has concluded new or expanded air transport agreements covering 104 countries. In 2017, bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and the United Arab Emirates totalled CAD1.8 billion.


Nepal Airlines seeks hotel accommodation offers for crews in Dubai and Riyadh
Nepal Airlines has issued a tender to five star hotels for flight crew layover services in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and rerequested for proposal for the same in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The tender is for a two year period from Aug-2018 to Aug-2020, with potential extension for a further year on the same rates, terms and conditions, if mutually agreed. The requirement is for four single and four double rooms in Riyadh and four single and two double rooms in Dubai and establishments have until 05-Aug-2018 to deliver sealed bids for the contract.


Dubai Tourism and Al Tayyar Travel Group form strategic alliance
Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) and Al Tayyar Travel Group have formed a strategic alliance with the aim of further enhancing Dubai’s position as the preferred destination for Saudi visitors. The parties plan to launch initiatives to expand Dubai Tourism’s marketing reach and visibility in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is one of Dubai’s top three visitor source markets. Online travel platform Almosafer reported 41% year-on-year growth in Dubai bookings in 2018 and Dubai Tourism recorded 630,000 Saudi visitors in the first five months of 2018.


Route Updates

  • Etihad Airways plans to increase Abu Dhabi-Toronto frequency from three to five times weekly, effective 28-Oct-2018. The airline will operate the service with Boeing 777-300ER equipment configured with 40 business class and 340 economy class seats.
  • SalamAir plans to launch a Muscat-Dhaka service from 28-Aug-2018. The new service is the airline’s fourth destination in the subcontinent, which includes Karachi, Multan and Sialkot in Pakistan.
  • Cham Wings Airlines commenced Damascus-Amman service on 29-Jul-2018. As previously reported by CAPA, the airline also commenced Damascus-Moscow and Damascus-Sharjah services in Jul-2018.
  • Turkmenistan Airlines on 29-Jul-2018 resumed its twice weekly Ashgabat-Abu Dhabi service. The service is expected to handle around 20,000 passengers per annum and is being flown using Boeing 737-800 equipment.
  • Luxair plans to operate weekly Luxembourg-Ras Al Khaimah service from 24-Oct-2018 to 20-Feb-2019. The service will be operated with 186 seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
  • Alitalia and Etihad Airways plan to expand their codeshare network to include Alitalia’s Rome Fiumicino-Rio de Janeiro Galeão and Rome Fiumicino-São Paulo Guarulhos services, effective 31-Mar-2019.

  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Largest Middle East airlines by fleet size (as at Jul-2018)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG