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.

flydubai 2018 revenue climbs 12.4%, yields are up 8.4%, but ancillary revenue contribution declines

flydubai reported annual revenue of AED6.2 billion (USD1.68 billion) for 2018, a 12.4% increase year-on-year. flydubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith said the airline continued to increase revenue in 2018 despite experiencing a “challenging year”. Ancillary revenue contributed to 9.4% of revenue in 2H2018, down from 11.9% in 2H2017. The airline attributed this decline to fare bundling, which contributed to overall revenue growth but resulted in lower contribution to ancillary revenue. 2H2018 yields rose 8.4% year-on-year. The airline projected that volatility in fuel prices coupled with global geopolitical developments and its effect on international air travel demand will keep some pressure on yields and passenger numbers in the medium term. 2H2018 fuel costs were 29.8% of total annual operating costs, compared to 25% in 2H2017. Total operating costs include a price impact of AED411 million (USD111 million) due to a 31% increase in the average Brent Crude Oil prices.

SalamAir CEO: Salalah has potential to become carrier’s new hub

SalamAir CEO Mohamed Ahmed stated Salalah has the potential to become the carrier’s new hub. Mr Ahmed added Salalah would enable SalamAir to “take major strides” to further expand its “operations and network”. The airline reportedly is considering direct services from Salalah to Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh and Mr Ahmed stated direct international services from Salalah will “create additional demand and reflect positively on the local economy”.

Jazeera terminal at Kuwait International Airport a ‘game changer’ for the airline

Jazeera Airways reported the Jazeera terminal at Kuwait International Airport has handled more than 1.2 million passengers since May-2018. Jazeera Airways chairman Marwan Boodai stated the development of the Jazeera terminal is “a significant game changer” for the airline’s “operations and customer experience”. Mr Boodai added the airline is now able to “invest in and roll out new customer centric services” at the Jazeera terminal. The Kuwaiti carrier has released  its financial results for the financial year ending 31-Dec-2018, which revealed a 45.5% increase in operating revenue year-on-year.

Etihad adds a fourth daily frequency to London to meet ‘peak demand’

UAE carrier Etihad Airways plans to increase Abu Dhabi-London Heathrow frequency from three to four times daily during Apr-2019, operating the extra frequency with a two class 299-seat Boeing 787-9. The carrier will continue to operate its established three times daily Abu Dhabi-London Heathrow service with A380 aircraft. The additional frequency will operate from 05-Apr-2019 to meet “peak demand”.

News Briefs

  • Saudi Arabian representatives will meet this week with representatives from Portugal ANAC to discuss a bilateral air services agreement between the two countries.
  • Royal Jordanian has partnered with Mastercard to grant holders of World Elite, Titanium, and Platinum consumer and commercial branded credit and debit cards access to the Crown Lounge at Amman Queen Alia International Airport.
  • Amadeus has entered into a 10 year distribution partnership with Middle East Airlines. The Lebanon flag carrier says the partnership will drive larger economies of sale, increase technological efficiencies and meet its distribution ambitions.
  • Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has commenced work on two international terminals at the Riyadh King Khalid International Airport. The project is projected to require SAR2.21 billion (USD589 million) and will see the airport able to accommodate 11 million passengers annually.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 25-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

  • Iran Air has reportedly received three second hand Airbus A319 aircraft (EY-557, EY-558 and EY-559). Local reports say the carrier purchased the aircraft from a Hungarian domestic airline in 2018. Iran is under US sanctions, which bar the export of commercial aircraft to the country.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 25-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

  • Emirates Airline reportedly plans to increase Dubai-Abuja frequency to twice daily, effective 01-Jun-2019 with Boeing 777-300ER equipment.
  • flynas plans to launch flights to Baku with four times weekly Dammam, twice weekly Qassim and four times weekly Riyadh services from 01-Jun-2019. The carrier previously operated Damman-Baku and Riyadh-Baku services last summer, according to OAG.
  • Gulf Air plans to resume three times weekly Bahrain-Salalah service, effective 15-Jun-2019 to 14-Sep-2019, according to a 19-Feb-2019 GDS display. The carrier will operate the route with A320 equipment.
  • Iran Air plans to launch Kermanshah-Najaf service, effective 21-Mar-2019. The new service is scheduled to operate during the Iranian new year holiday period.
  • Kuwaiti officials have revealed an interest in the launch of nonstop passenger or cargo services between the country and Kyrgyzstan to be potentially flown by Kuwait Airways or Jazeera Airways.
  • China Southern Airlines reportedly plans to deploy Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on daily Guangzhou-Dubai service from 31-Mar-2019, replacing A330-300 aircraft, according to RoutesOnline.