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.

  • Iran Air adds another five ATR 72-600s ahead of sanctions revision
  • Emirates Skywards replaces flydubai’s ‘OPEN’ loyalty programme
  • Oman Air Cargo reports 25% growth in cargo at new Muscat Airport facility in 1H2018
  • Dubai welcomed 8.10m international overnight tourists in 1H2018
  • Emirates boosts winter frequency to Amsterdam
  • ROUTE UPDATE: latest route launches and announcements
  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East system seats by business model (w/c 06-Aug-2018)

Iran Air adds another five ATR 72-600s ahead of sanctions revision
Iran Air has received five new ATR 72-600 turboprops growing its fleet of the type to 13 aircraft. They all flew into Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport just ahead of the introduction of new US sanctions against Iran, which came into effect on 06-Aug-2018. Iran Air placed an order for 20 ATR 72-600s with an additional 20 options in early 2016. The increased political tensions between the US and Iran will impact the completion of the fleet renewal contract and it is unclear if any remaining aircraft will be delivered.

Emirates Skywards replaces flydubai’s ‘OPEN’ loyalty programme
As part of the increasing synergies between Dubai’s airlines, flydubai’s ‘OPEN’ frequent flyer programme has been replaced by Emirates Airline’s Skywards loyalty programme, effective 01-Aug-2018. Skywards members may earn miles when travelling on both airlines. Former ‘OPEN’ members can enrol into Skywards to continue earning miles on flydubai. The loyalty programme alignment builds on the airlines’ partnership, which includes codesharing and commercial, network planning and airport operations initiatives. “We’re bringing together the customers of both airlines under one programme, rewarding their loyalty as they take advantage of the Emirates and flydubai partnership,” says Nahed Al Kheily, vice president ancillary revenue, Emirates Airline.

Oman Air Cargo reports 25% growth in cargo at new Muscat Airport facility in 1H2018
Oman Air Cargo says its upgraded cargo hub at Muscat Seeb International Airport delivered a 25% year-on-year “increase in business” in 1H2018. The 22,780sqm facility commenced operations in Mar-2018 and has capacity to handle 350,000 tons of cargo p/a. Cargo business increased 38% in 2017 and 5% in 2016.

Dubai welcomed 8.10m international overnight tourists in 1H2018
UAE Dubai Department of Tourism has announced Dubai welcomed a record 8.10 million international overnight tourists during 1H2018, representing a “consistent” year-on-year increase. The emirate’s tourism sector was worth AED109 billion (USD29.7 billion) p/a at the end of 2017. Dubai is on track for projected growth into 2H2018. Top source markets, which continued to experience stable year-on-year performances, include India, Saudi Arabia and the UK. India exceeded the one million mark over the six-month period, up by 3% year-on-year. Saudi Arabia and the UK retained their spots as the second and third largest feeder markets respectively.

Emirates boosts winter frequency to Amsterdam
UAE carrier Emirates Airline plans to increase frequencies on its Dubai-Amsterdam route from 14 to 18 times weekly from 01-Dec-2018, increasing further to 19 times weekly from 01-Jan-2019. The new third rotation will offer an earlier departure option from Amsterdam that is convenient for visitors to Dubai, and will provide enhanced connectivity to destinations on Emirates’ global network. The new flight will be operated by a three-class Boeing 777-300ER and will complement the two existing Airbus A380 operated flights on the route.

Route Updates

  • Kish Air plans to commence four times weekly Tehran Imam Khomeini-Yerevan service on 07-Aug-2018, twice weekly Lar-Dubai service on 22-Aug-2018 and weekly Lar-Muscat service on 24-Aug-2018.
  • Kuwait Airways resumed Kuwait City–Bangalore service on 02-Aug-2018 after brief service suspension since 01-Jun-2018. The airline operates five times weekly with A320 aircraft on the route, according to OAG.
  • Air Mediterranean plans to commence seven times weekly scheduled Athens-Kuwait service with 160 seat Boeing 737-400 aircraft from 01-Dec-2018.
  • Iraqi Airways launched twice weekly Baghdad-Kuwait City service on 30-Jul-2018 using a mix of Boeing 747 and Bombardier CRJ-900 equipment. The carrier is the sole operator on the route, according to OAG schedules.
  • Qatar Airways increased its Doha-Budapest frequency from 17 to 21 times weekly from 04-Aug-2018. At the same time it upgauged to Airbus A330 operation, replacing the current mix of A320/A321 aircraft and nearly doubling seat capacity.
  • Smartwings plans to resume Prague-Dubai service from 21-Sep-2018. The route will operate four times weekly with Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, replacing 737-800 equipment, and increase to seven times weekly from 28-Oct-2018.

  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East system seats by business model (w/c 06-Aug-2018)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG