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.

  • Etihad Airways to defend itself ‘vigorously’ against airberlin lawsuit
  • Gulf Air launches new stopover travel packages to promote Bahrain
  • Emirates takes delivery of final 777-300ER
  • El Al board approves agreements with Diners Club, ICC and MasterCard on Fly Card
  • US Senator Rand Paul requests Qatar Airways compliance with US ‘Open Skies Agreement’ be reviewed
  • ROUTE UPDATE: latest route launches and announcements
  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East international departing frequencies by week (as at 17-Dec-2018)

Etihad Airways to defend itself ‘vigorously’ against airberlin lawsuit
Etihad Airways reportedly stated a lawsuit filed by airberlin’s insolvency administrator in a German court is “without merit”, and it “will defend ourselves vigorously against it”. As previously reported, airberlin is seeking EUR500 million from Etihad and a court-ordered requirement to pay further damages, claiming the airline withdrew from its Apr-2017 commitment to provide financial support. Germany’s Landgericht Berlin (Berlin Regional Court) has provisionally set the case’s value at EUR2 billion. airberlin’s administrator alleges Etihad reneged on its promise in Apr-2017 to provide financial support to airberlin over an 18 month period, in order to allow its subsidiary to fulfil its financial obligations. The administrator added that Etihad then withdrew support in Aug-2017, which forced airberlin to file for bankruptcy. Etihad must respond to the lawsuit by Jan-2019, the court stated.


Gulf Air launches new stopover travel packages to promote Bahrain
Gulf Air has launched new stopover travel packages designed to promote Bahrain as a tourist destination to its global customer base. The stopover packages, available for both Falcon Gold and economy travellers for the duration of one to four days, can be booked via Gulf Air’s website and contact centre. The packages comprise a wide range of hotel accommodations, day tours and excursions.


Emirates takes delivery of final 777-300ER
Emirates announced it took delivery of the final Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on its order books, marking the 146th delivery of a 777-300ER aircraft to the airline. The airline welcomed the first Boeing 777-300ER aircraft into its fleet in March 2005 and over the last 13 years, the 777-300ER has become the backbone of Emirates’ fleet operating currently to over 119 destinations across the airline’s global network. Emirates has operated one out of every five Boeing 777-300ER aircraft produced to date and the average age of a Boeing 777-3000ER in Emirates’ fleet is a mere 6.5 years. Emirates’ Boeing 777 fleet has carried close to 350 million passengers on more than 1.28 million flights and covered over 6.6 billion kilometres since 1996. That’s the equivalent of flying almost 8600 times to the moon and back. From 2020, Emirates will start taking delivery of 35 777-8s and 115 777-9s.


El Al board approves agreements with Diners Club, ICC and MasterCard on Fly Card
El Al has signed an agreement with Diners Club and ICC on the provision of joint credit card services, after receiving board approval. The 10 year agreement will cover the issue and management of the carrier’s Fly Card for frequent flyers from 01-Sep-2019. The agreement includes the right to exit after seven years. The board also approved work on an agreement with MasterCard. Matmid frequent flyer programme members will be able to apply for Diners and/or MasterCard credit cards.


US Senator Rand Paul requests Qatar Airways compliance with US ‘Open Skies Agreement’ be reviewed
US Senator Rand Paul issued a letter to US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The letter requested the secretaries review Qatar Airways’ compliance with the US ‘Open Skies Agreement’, after the airline became a 49% shareholder in Air Italy. The Senator noted Qatar Airways’ investment in Air Italy may allow it to avoid the agreement reached by the US government with Qatar. As previously reported by CAPA, Partnership for Open & Fair Skies campaign manager Scott Reed said the US-Qatar agreement established in early 2018 meant Qatar Airways “would not launch future ‘fifth freedom’ flights to the US”.


Route Updates

  • El Al plans to launch three times weekly Tel Aviv-San Francisco service from 13-May-2019 and weekly Tel Aviv-Las Vegas service from 14-Jun-2019, operating with Boeing 787 aircraft.
  • Jordan Aviation launched (14-Dec-2018) weekly Amman-Kiev Igor Sikorsky service, operating with Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
  • Taban Air plans to offer 10 times weekly Tehran-Bushehr service, operated with 170 seat aircraft.
  • Saudia reportedly plans to increase Jeddah-Kozhikode frequency from four to five times weekly and decrease Riyadh-Kozhikode frequency from three times to twice weekly, commencing 13-Jan-2019,
  • Turkish Airlines plans to launch weekly Dalaman-Amman service from 06-Jun-2019, operating with A320 aircraft, as per a 13-Dec-2018 GDS inventory and timetable display.
  • flynas plans to increase Jeddah-Tabuk capacity with an additional daily frequency on 07-Jan-2019, as it seeks to meet growing demand.
  • Qatar Airways launched a five times weekly Doha-Gothenburg service on 12-Dec-2018, utilising Boeing 787 aircraft. The airline is the sole operator on the route, according to OAG.
  • Iberia has commenced weekly charter operations to Dubai in partnership with Pullmantur Cruises, effective to 09-Mar-2018. Operations will be carried out with 292 seat A330 aircraft.

  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East international departing frequencies by week (as at 17-Dec-2018)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG