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.

Etihad Airways and Elenium launch voice activated self service kiosk in Abu Dhabi

Etihad Airways partnered with Elenium to launch a voice activated self service kiosk, bag drop and boarding gate facility. The new kiosk uses cloud technology, artificial intelligence, computer vision and human interfacing technology. Etihad Airways VP hub and midfield operations Jorg Oppermann says the kiosk will “decrease passenger queues” and “increase operational efficiency”. Etihad Airways plans to install the kiosk in phases in the Midfield Terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Bahrain’s Crown Prince announces Bahrain Airport Expansion Project

Bahrain’s Crown Prince this week announced details of the Bahrain Airport Expansion Project which entails the construction of a new passenger terminal. The terminal will have a built up area of 210,000sqm and aims to increase passenger handling capacity from nine million to 14 million p/a. The expansion project also includes 25 additional aerobridges, a new baggage system and parking facilities to accommodate 2700 cars.

Emirates expands partnership with Uber to offer discounted and free rides in Dubai

Emirates Airline has expanded its partnership with Uber to offer free or discounted rides to passengers travelling from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman and Iraq. Under the new scheme, Emirates Economy Flex Plus passengers can use two free rides from and to Dubai International Airport from anywhere in Dubai up to the value of AED120 (USD32), while Emirates Economy Flex passengers are granted a 50% discount on two free rides up to the value of AED60 (USD16). The scheme is live now and lasts until 18-Jun-2019.

British Airways to add Dammam as third Saudi destination

British Airways announced last week plans to introduce London Heathrow-Bahrain-Dammam service from 01-Dec-2019, operating with four class Boeing 777-200 equipment. British Airways head of sales Moran Birger stated: “This new link underlines the importance of the Eastern province of the Kingdom and the need for smooth onward connections to Europe and the United States”. Dammam will be the third Saudi Arabian destination for British Airways, following Riyadh and Jeddah.

Gulf Air and Etihad Airways sign codeshare agreement

Gulf Air has signed a codeshare partnership with Etihad Airways to expand its network reach into additional long-haul; markets. Gulf Air will place its code on Etihad Airways services from Abu Dhabi to Bahrain, Brisbane, Chicago O’Hare, Jakarta, Lagos, Los Angeles, Melbourne, New York JFK, Sydney and Washington. Etihad Airways will place its code on Gulf Air services from Bahrain to Abu Dhabi, Baghdad, Casablanca, Dhaka, Faisalabad, Larnaca, Malaga, Multan, Najaf, Peshawar, Sialkot and Tbilisi. In addition to the codeshare signing, both Gulf Air Falconflyer and Etihad Guest loyalty programmes are “exploring ways to offer earn and burn opportunities”.

Afghanistan aims to establish air freight corridor to Sri Lanka

Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka M Ashraf Haidari reported Afghanistan aims to establish a dedicated airfreight corridor connecting Kabul and Colombo. Mr Haidari noted Afghanistan established a similar air corridor with India in 2017 and said services to Sri Lanka may operate via Delhi or Mumbai initially. He added: “We encourage SriLankan Airlines too to consider a direct flight to Afghanistan”.

News Briefs

  • Muscat Seeb International Airport revealed its ‘Primeclass Lounge’ has logged 350,000 entrants since it began operation in Mar-2018, exceeding original expectations, reports Times of Oman.
  • PrivatAir Saudi Arabia (PASA) plans to introduce an FBO at Riyadh King Khaled International Airport, two at Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport and install a new FBO within existing facilities at Dammam King Fahd International Airport Airport.
  • Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers has authorised the State Aviation Administration to sign an agreement with Qatar on the removal of bilateral restrictions on the number of designated carriers, destinations and frequencies between the countries.

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

  • Qatar Airways received one A350-900 aircraft (MSN 265). According to the CAPA Fleet Database, the carrier has now taken delivery of 34 A350-900s and has three remaining on order.
  • Oman Air received one Boeing 787-9 aircraft (A4O-SI, MSN 38792) leased from AerCap on 20-Mar-2019, as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The airline operates three 787-8s and six 787-9s, with four 787-8s and one 787-9 on order.
  • Etihad Airways received one Boeing 787-9 (A6-BLY, MSN 39679), as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The airline now operates 25 787-9 aircraft.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 25-Mar-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 announced plans to increase Dubai-Cairo frequency from 21 to 25 times weekly, effective 28-Oct-2019. The carrier plans to operate the route with Boeing 777-300ER equipment.
  • Mahan Air plans to launch a twice weekly Tehran Imam Khomeini-Shenzhen service with effect from 30-Jun-2019 with A340-600 equipment. At the same time it will adjust Tehran Imam Khomeini-Guangzhou frequency from three to twice weekly.
  • Syrian Airlines is reportedly considering plans to launch Latakia-Moscow service in summer 2019.
  • Iraqi Airways launched weekly Baghdad-Munich service, effective 20-Mar-2019 with A320 equipment.
  • Turkey’s AnadoluJet has launched three times weekly Gaziantep-Erbil and Diyarbakır-Erbil services.
  • Himalaya Airlines plans to suspend Kathmandu-Dubai service, effective 31-Mar-2019, replacing it with a three times weekly Kathmandu-Abu Dhabi service.