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.

Our regular round-up delivers some of the latest key aviation and travel news stories from across the Middle East region.

Qatar Airways set to boost Gothenburg flights

Qatar Airways is set to more than double frequencies between Doha and the Swedish city of Gothenburg having only inaugurated flights on the route in the past couple of weeks. The airline currently operates five weekly frequencies, but Akbar Al Baker revealed at the CAPA Qatar Aviation Aeropolitical and Regulatory Summit last week that significant growth is already on the cards.

“Advanced bookings for Gothenburg are so strong we are soon going to launch a daily frequency from five [flights per week] and are considering going double daily,” he explained.

Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city, is set to grow by almost a third by the end of 2035. It is an important industrial and business centre, with the largest port in the Nordic countries.

Qatar Airways is serving the market with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, featuring 22 seats in Business Class and 232 seats in Economy Class.

Jazeera Airways launches self check in kiosks at Kuwait International Airport

Jazeera Airways has launched self check in kiosks for customers in terminal 5 at Kuwait International Airport. The airline also launched WiFi service at its terminal 5 gates.

Jazeera Airways CEO Rohit Ramachandran says the “additional amenities and services” will raise “the level of the passenger experience” at the airport.

SpiceJet to be first Indian LCC to operate scheduled service to Saudi Arabia

SpiceJet head of communications Tushar Srivastava, has revealed via his official Twitter account that the LCC plans to deploy 189 seat Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft on daily Hyderabad-Jeddah service, scheduled to launch on 25-Mar-2019

Mr Srivastava reported Jeddah will be the LCC’s ninth international. destination and third destination in the Middle East. He added that SpiceJet will be the first Indian LCC to operate scheduled service to Saudi Arabia.

Etihad Airways and Royal Jordanian announce codeshare partnership

Etihad Airways and Royal Jordanian have entered a codeshare partnership. Under the agreement, Etihad Airways will codeshare on Royal Jordanian’s Abu Dhabi-Larnaca and Abu Dhabi-Berlin services. Services to Algiers, Tunis, Vienna and Montreal are set to be added to the agreement. Royal Jordanian will codeshare on Etihad Airways’ Amman-Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi-Brisbane and Abu Dhabi-Seoul services.

Subject to government approval, Royal Jordanian will also market Etihad’s services to Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calicut, Cochin, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Trivandrum, Manila, Beijing and Shanghai.

Royal Jordanian president and CEO Stefan Pichler says the agreement will enable the airline to “grow in different markets” and “expand” its “presence in Asia and Australia”.

Qatar Airways to allow Indian passengers to pay for airfares via instalments

Qatar Airways announced it will offer customers with credit cards issued by Indian banks an option to pay for fares in instalments.

Passengers will be able to make payments every three, six, nine or 12 months, provided a minimum payment has been made.

The airline hopes the option will increase flexibility for Indian passengers, as well as encouraging them to book online directly via the carrier’s website.

News Briefs

  • Imam Khomeini Airport Company forecasts the ‘Iranshahr terminal’ at Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport will reach an annual capacity of 100 million passengers upon completion. The design of and designer for the terminal is due to be announced on 21-Mar-2019.
  • Oman Air Holidays has signed a MoU with Alizz Islamic Bank whereby the latter’s Titanium, Platinum and World credit card holders will receive a 15% discount on air fares, hotels and airport transfers that are booked via the Oman Air Holidays platform.
  • Saudi Arabia has inked a tentative deal with Albania. The latter’s Ambassador in Saudi Arabia, Sami Shiba, signed an agreement on air services with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Transport and a MoU on tourism cooperation with Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 11-Feb-2019)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG (NOTE: *These values are at least partly predictive up to 6 months ahead and may be subject to change)

Fleet Development

  • Saudia received a third A320 aircraft with satellite communications technology on 07-Feb-2019 after its interior cabin was equipped with high speed internet and direct television broadcasting.
  • Etihad Airways received one Boeing 787-9 (A6-BLW, MSN 39665), as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The airline now operates 23 aircraft of the type.
  • EgyptAir Cargo intends to expand its network from Mar-2019 following delivery of its second A330-200P2F aircraft in Feb-2019.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 11-Feb-2019)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG (NOTE: *These values are at least partly predictive up to 6 months ahead and may be subject to change)

Route Update

  • Flynas plans to launch new summer routes between Jun-2019 and Aug-2019. These include Dammam-Tbilisi, Gassim-Baku, Gassim-Trabzon, Jeddah-Trabzon and Jeddah-Batumi and will operate with two or three weekly frequencies.
  • Qatar Airways plans to replace A340-600 with A330-200 equipment on one of seven daily Doha-Bangkok Suvarnabhumi frequencies, effective 02-May-2019 to 26-Oct-2019, reports AirlineRoute. The airline also operates A350-900, A380, Boeing 777-300ER and 787-8 aircraft on the route.
  • Etihad Airways says it has “no urgent plans” to resume service to Damascus but is “constantly monitoring the situation”. It suspended service to Syria back in 2012 due to security concerns.
  • SalamAir plans to launch three times weekly Muscat-Alexandria Borg el Arab service, effective 02-Mar-2019 with A320 equipment.
  • Pegasus Airlines plans to launch four times weekly Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen-Basrah service from 28-May-2019 using Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
  • SkyUp plans to launch seasonal weekly Kharkiv-Sharjah service from 02-Mar-2019 to 11-May-2019, operating with Boeing 737-700 aircraft.
  • Gulf Air plans to launch twice weekly Bahrain-Malaga service, effective 14-Jun-2019 to 13-Sep-2019 with Boeing 787-9 equipment.