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.


Middle East Airlines to equip A321neo fleet with Recaro business and economy class seats

Middle East Airlines has announced plans to equip its fleet of Airbus A321neo aircraft with Recaro CL5710 electrical business class and CL3710 economy class seats. The carrier has ordered 11 firm and seven optional full cabin fits for its A321neo fleet.


Royal Jordanian records 27% increase in online sales in 2018

Royal Jordanian reported a 27% increase in online sales in 2018. The carrier attributes this growth to an upgrade of its digital channels, the launch of a new destination and the enhancement of route network connectivity through schedule changes and expansion of the scope of codeshare agreements with other airlines. The airline Royal handled 3.3 million passengers in 2018, a 4% increase year-on-year.


Emirates to offer personalised inflight entertainment in 2020

Emirates Airline VP of customer experience, inflight entertainment and connectivity Patrick Brannelly stated in an interview that the airline will start offering tailored inflight entertainment in 2020. Mr Brannelly told Arabian Business the new system will enable passengers to “log in to a seat” as they would “would login to Netflix” and will use artificial intelligence to offer personalised content that is “relevant” to each passenger.


Abu Dhabi Airports announces qualification for new ACI training and service programme

Abu Dhabi International Airport announced it will be the first Middle Eastern airport to receive accreditation under ACI’s ‘Airport Customer Experience Accreditation’ program. The program is part of part of ACI’s global ‘Airport Service Quality’ initiative and required airports to ensure high levels of training and service accreditation for their staff.


ICAO Council president: Middle East regional tourism figures up 10%

ICAO Council president Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu reported Middle East regional tourism figures are “up 10% since last year”, and that the very significant Central Southwest Asia to Middle East passenger route group is expected to grow at a compound growth rate of 6.5% p/a from 2015 to 2045, according to the latest ICAO long-term traffic forecasts.


Japanese visitors to Dubai exceeded 100,000 for the first time in 2018

Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing has reported overnight visitors from Japan exceeded 100,000 for the first time at the end of 2018, a growth of 15.3% year-on-year to 104,843. The metropolis continues to be a key trending destination amongst young Japanese females, with the emirate witnessing an increase of 21% to 7.4 million mentions on social media from 2016 to 2018.


Flyadeal looking to establish international operations ‘as early as this year’

Flyadeal CEO Con Korfiatis stated the carrier is “looking at international operations, potentially as early as this year” as “Saudis are avid travellers” and there is an “incredible outbound market internationally”. Mr Korfiatis added there is also “enormous inbound growth potential” in Saudi Arabia due to Hajj and Umrah pilgrims travelling to Mecca and Medina.


News Briefs

  • Saudi Arabia‘s Minister of Transport Nabeel Al-Amoudi has stated Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation sector generates an estimated SAR126 billion (USD33.6 billion) p/a and creates 526,000 jobs.
  • Emirates Airline VP customer experience, inflight entertainment and connectivity Patrick Brannelly said advertising revenues sold through the carrier’s inflight entertainment system increased 35% year-on-year in 2018.
  • Etihad Cargo has reappointed MICCO as its road feeder service (RFS) provider under a multi year agreement. MICCO’s RFS network connects air and sea ports in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and GCC countries including Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

  • CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 08-Apr-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
  • China Eastern Airlines plans to operate Boeing 787-9 aircraft on the Shanghai Pudong-Dubai and Shanghai Pudong-Kunming-Dubai routes during summer 2019, replacing A330-200 and A330-300 equipment.
  • Kuwait Airways said delivery of new A320neo aircraft has been postponed until Jun-2019, Oct-2019 and Nov-2019, instead of the original schedule of Mar-2019.

  • CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 08-Apr-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
  • Iran Aseman Airlines plans to launch Chabahar-Muscat service, effective 09-Apr-2019 with Fokker 100 equipment, reports Routes Online.
  • SAS plans to commence twice weekly Stockholm-Beirut service, operating with A320neo and Boeing 737-800 equipment, from 30-Jun-2019 to 07-Sep-2019.
  • China Southern Airlines plans to increase Wuhan-Dubai frequency from three to four times weekly, effective 16-Jun-2019. The additional service will operate on Sundays with Boeing 787-8 aircraft.
  • Pegasus Airlines plans to commence Gaziantep-Erbil: Twice weekly, effective 28-May-2019; Trabzon-Amman: Three times weekly, effective 28-May-2019; Trabzon-Jeddah: Weekly, effective 01-Jun-2019; and Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen-Riyadh: Daily, effective 03-Jun-2019.
  • airblue has commenced twice weekly Peshawar-Sharjah service. The LCC will operate A321 aircraft on the service and plans to increase frequency to three times weekly, effective 17-Apr-2019 to 29-May-2019.
  • TAROM has resumed twice weekly Bucharest-Cairo service. The carrier suspended Bucharest-Cairo service in 2013.
  • Uzbekistan Airways has increased Tashkent-Jeddah frequency to daily, operating with Boeing 767 aircraft. The service previously operated three times weekly, according to OAG.