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.

  • IATA: Middle East records fastest FTK growth of all regions in Sep-2018
  • Travelport: Up to 83% of UAE travellers prefer to use biometric tech over manual checks
  • Sana’a International Airport ready to accept commercial services: Minister of Transport
  • Qatar and Turkey sign ASA increasing permitted frequencies to 63 times weekly
  • flydubai moves 11 services to T3 at Dubai International Airport
  • ICAO: Five Middle East States to share sensitive aviation security information
  • Syrian Airlines expresses interest in acquisition of MC-21
  • The growing potential for a future Madrid – Iran air link
  • ROUTE UPDATE: latest route launches and announcements
  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Regional seat comparison from the Middle East’s largest hubs (w/c 03-Dec-2018)

IATA: Middle East records fastest FTK growth of all regions in Sep-2018
IATA stated the Middle East recorded the fastest FTK growth of all regions in Sep-2018 at +6.6% year-on-year, more than double the growth of the second highest ranked, Latin America. The continued weakness in growth for Africa (-2.1% year-on-year) is “more a reflection of the surge” in growth in 2017, with air freight volumes growing “moderately” over recent months. The largest Middle East markets (Asia and Europe) are showing robust growth at +5.5% and +6.3% year-on-year respectively, while Africa’s largest market, Europe, ended a six month decline in FTK growth, with freight volumes now up 4.5% year-on-year. [


Travelport: Up to 83% of UAE travellers prefer to use biometric tech over manual checks
Travelport, via its global digital traveller research study, stated up to 83% of travellers in the UAE prefer to use biometric technology instead of manual checks to pass through passport control. The data also discovered up to 61% of UAE travellers utilise voice search technology to research their trip. Travelport’s country manager for the UAE Kathryn Wallington said: “Our research findings underpin how important digital tools, such as smartphones, biometric screening and voice search, have become for UAE travellers”.


Sana’a International Airport ready to accept commercial services: Minister of Transport
Yemen’s Minister of Transport Zakaria al-Shami has reportedly announced Sana’a International Airport is now fully prepared and ready to begin accepting commercial services, according to ICAO requirements, local news media report. The airport’s operations were reportedly impacted by an air raid on 14-Nov-2017, with its radio navigation station for aircraft reportedly destroyed. Yemen’s Civil Aviation and Meteorology Authority (CAMA) also issued a “distress call” in May-2018, stating the airport’s continued closure to scheduled service “without any justification” is “contrary to all humanitarian and international norms and a flagrant violation of all relevant international conventions”.


Qatar and Turkey sign ASA increasing permitted frequencies to 63 times weekly
Turkey’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation signed an air services agreement with Qatar, increasing overall permitted frequency from 56 to 63 times weekly. According to the agreement, Doha-Istanbul frequency is increased from 10 to 14 times weekly and three times weekly Dalaman service is added.


flydubai moves 11 services to T3 at Dubai International Airport
flydubai has shifted services to 11 destinations from T2 to T3 at Dubai International Airport from 02-Dec-2018. These destinations include Belgrade, Bishkek, Bucharest, Catania, Helsinki, Krakow, Mineralnye Vody, Prague, Rostov-on-Don, Salalah and Zagreb. Further services operating from Terminal 3 will be added in the summer schedule in 2019. Other services will continue to operate from T2 at Dubai International, and from Dubai World Central.


ICAO: Five Middle East States to share sensitive aviation security information
ICAO reported Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and the UAE signed a LoI on sharing sensitive aviation security information, as a precursor to a full MoU on the area. ICAO stated the working paper that inspired the LoI discusses the importance of the strengthening cooperation between states regarding the sharing of relevant information in order to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of risk-based aviation security measures.


Syrian Airlines expresses interest in acquisition of MC-21
Syrian Airlines CEO Talal Abdulkarim said the carrier is interesting in becoming one of the first Irkut MC-21 operators. Mr Abdulkarim said the aircraft would support network expansion and launch of services to new destinations. He also noted that the closure of Georgia’s airspace for Syrian carriers resulted in losses due to increased flight time and rerouting.


The growing potential for a future Madrid – Iran air link
Spain’s Ambassador to Iran Eduardo Lopez Busquets has reportedly stated approximately 10,000 Spanish tourists visit Iran per annum. He reportedly noted a direct Madrid-Iran service would be beneficial, and highlighted the importance of boosting Iran-Spain tourism links.


Route Updates

  • flynas plans to increase Riyadh-Hail service with an additional frequency from 10-Dec-2018, in order to meet customers’ rising demand.
  • Etihad Airways plans to increase Abu Dhabi-Dublin frequency from seven to 11 times weekly between 27-Jun-2019 to 15-Sep-2019, utilising Boeing 787-9 aircraft, reports AirlineRoute.
  • Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) reportedly plans to commence twice weekly Sialkot-Kuwait service. It will be the sole scheduled operator on the route, according to OAG.
  • Air France plans to add a daytime Paris CDG-Dubai frequency from Jan-2019 to 27-Mar-2019.

  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Regional seat comparison from the Middle East’s largest hubs (w/c 03-Dec-2018)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG