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 argues its investment in Air Italy is ‘fully compliant’ with US-Qatar Open Skies agreement

Qatar Airways has issued a response to what it describes as recent “false accusations relating to Qatar Airways’ shareholding in Air Italy”, stating its “investment in Air Italy and operations to the US are fully compliant with the US-Qatar Open Skies Agreement, the Jan-2018 US-Qatar Understandings and a side letter that accompanied the discussions”. Qatar Airways maintains its investment in Air Italy preceded the Jan-2018 signature of the agreement and was never raised as a point of concern during those discussions. The carrier further added that the “Understandings do not mention or prohibit cross border investments of any type”. The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies had issued a statement mentioning there is “bipartisan concern” that Qatar Airways is “violating” the agreement.


El Al updates compensation plan for travel agents

El Al has updated its compensation plan for travel agents. The carrier plans to offer a fixed rate of a maximum 3% for select ticket sales. The agreement is effective until 30-May-2024. El Al expects the updated compensation plan will positively impact financial results.


Saudia Cargo joins SkyTeam Cargo

Saudia Cargo joined SkyTeam Cargo, effective 15-Apr-2019. Saudia Cargo is the alliance’s 12th member. Saudia Cargo is expected to significantly increase SkyTeam Cargo’s footprint in the Middle East and membership allows Saudia Cargo and its customers to benefit from a global network of more than 900 destinations in more than 175 countries. “Joining SkyTeam Cargo means our valued customers will benefit from an enhanced product offering and a comprehensive global network,” says Omar Hariri, CEO, Saudia Cargo.


Etihad Airways launches free Abu Dhabi stopover promotion

Etihad Airways has launched a free stopover promotion, offering two free nights of hotel accommodation in Abu Dhabi for passengers booking services to and from Etihad destinations via Abu Dhabi. Passengers can choose from 15 hotels located across Abu Dhabi including the five star Intercontinental Abu Dhabi and Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi as well as the Courtyard by Marriott WTC, Crowne Plaza and Radisson Blu. The promotion is available for online bookings from 10-Apr-2019 to 15-Jun-2019 for services operating between 21-Apr-2019 and 15-Jul-2019.


Emirates completes installation of Expo 2020 Dubai livery on 40 aircraft

Emirates Airline has completed the installation of bespoke Expo 2020 Dubai liveries on 40 aircraft, with its final A380 aircraft emblazoned in the distinctive orange ‘opportunity’ decal rolling out of the Emirates Engineering hangar last week. The first decal was unveiled in 2017 on an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER aircraft decorated in the blue ‘mobility’ decal. Since then, Emirates says its mini-fleet of Expo 2020 Dubai aircraft have collectively flown to 134 destinations across the airline’s global network, travelling 66 million kilometres on over 15,000 flights, amplifying the message of Expo across borders. One of the largest decal projects ever undertaken at the Emirates Aircraft Appearance Centre, it took 15,000 hours spanning over 14 months to apply the Expo 2020 decal.


News Briefs

  • India’s Jet Airways reportedly plans to transfer three daily London Heathrow airport slots to Etihad Airways, effective 28-Apr-2019. It sold the slots to the UAE carrier in 2013 and had operated them under a lease agreement since the sale.
  • Oman’s Public Authority for Civil Aviation has confirmed it is meeting with the Civil Aviation Authority of Myanmar to discuss an open skies agreement.
  • Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority has reported the closure of Pakistan’s airspace since Feb-2019 has cost the country an estimated USD12 million.
  • Abu Dhabi Airports has opened seven new ‘AUH Libraries’ at Abu Dhabi International airport in its terminals 1 and 3. The libraries are made up of one ‘main library’ in terminal 1 and six ‘mini libraries’ distributed between terminals 1 and 3.
  • Batelco Group announced it renewed its partnership agreement with Gulf Air for a further three years. Under the scheme, Batelco’s Al Dana Club members and high value customers are awarded benefits such as Falconflyer miles.
  • Iran Airports & Air Navigation Company is seeking a tender regarding the restoration and renovation of buildings, electrical mechanical and flight agents, and landscaping of Khorramabad airport. The tender will be awarded based on a two stage bidding process.

  • CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 15-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

  • Emirates Airline plans to deploy new 777-300ER aircraft on its Dubai-Riyadh route. The aircraft with new first class product will operate five times weekly, effective 16-Apr-2019, increasing to daily, effective 01-Jun-2019.
  • Etihad Airways will deploy 787-9 aircraft on routes linking Abu Dhabi to Johannesburg (from 01-Aug-2019), Lagos (from 02-Aug-2019) and Milan Malpensa (from 01-Sep-2019), replacing A330s.
  • El Al signed a MoU on the sale of one Boeing 757-300 aircraft with two Pratt & Whitney engines. The carrier expects to record a capital gain of USD5.1 million upon the closure of the deal.

  • CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 15-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

  • Qatar Airways is modifying its Doha-Clark operations, reports Routes Online. Effective 18-Jun-2019 it will offer a six times weekly Doha-Clark flight and a weekly Doha-Clark-Davao-Doha triangular service.
  • Saudia has suspended all services to Sudan until further notice due to the closure of airports in Khartoum and Port Sudan.
  • Fly Erbil plans to commence twice weekly Ankara service, effective 17-Apr-2019.
  • IndiGo reportedly plans to commence daily Delhi-Abu Dhabi service on 05-Jun-2019 with A320 aircraft.
  • Himalaya Airlines plans to increase Kathmandu-Abu Dhabi frequency from three times weekly to daily, commencing 24-Apr-2019.