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.

  • Air Arabia continues to be influenced by geopolitical and economic challenges
  • Saudi Arabia’s GACA selects SITA to support modernisation of 26 airports
  • Royal Jordanian reaches partnership with CarTrawler to offer car hire solutions
  • SalamAir foresees substantial growth in future, targeting 20 new destinations
  • Afghanistan takes control of civil airspace following commissioning of new radar system
  • Middle East Airlines and Saudia expand codeshare agreement
  • Kuwait Airways inaugurates flights from new terminal at Kuwait International Airport
  • Qatar Airways receives US DoT approval to codeshare with Malaysia Airlines
  • ROUTE UPDATE: latest route launches and announcements
  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East system seats by business model (w/c 06-Aug-2018)

Air Arabia continues to be influenced by geopolitical and economic challenges
Air Arabia chairman Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohamed Al Thani stated trading conditions continue to be influenced by the regional geopolitical and economic challenges, although the outlook of LCC travel in the Middle East “remains very strong”. Air Arabia continues to focus on further expanding its reach and operational efficiency by capitalising on the “fundamental strength” of its business model, according Mr Al Thani. The airline reported strong growth in passenger demand in 1H2018, handling more than 4.2 million passengers with an average seat load factor of 79% in 1H2018. It saw a 4% year-on-year increase in turnover during 2Q2018, reaching AED938 million (USD255 million). Net profit decreased 24% to AED120 million (USD32.7 million).


Saudi Arabia’s GACA selects SITA to support modernisation of 26 airports
Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has selected SITA to support the modernisation of 26 airports and implement a “sweeping transformation of airport and communication technology”. GACA said the new technology will improve the overall passenger experience and prepare airports for an expected surge in passenger numbers. GACA noted passenger traffic across all Saudi airports reached 92 million in 2017, a 7.7% year-on-year increase.


Royal Jordanian reaches partnership with CarTrawler to offer car hire solutions
Royal Jordanian reached a new partnership with CarTrawler to provide passengers access to CarTrawler’s network of car hire solutions. The carrier said the partnership will offer access to a wider suite of transfer solutions, including private transfer, shared shuttle services, bus and rail products, at a later stage. “We are keen to connect with new partners who will enhance our customers’ experience, whether in the air or on the ground; this is one of our significant goals that we work hard to attain,” says Stefan Pichler, president & CEO of Royal Jordanian.


SalamAir foresees substantial growth in future, targeting 20 new destinations
SalamAir CEO Mohamed Ahmed stated the airline is targeting an additional 20 destinations in the future, noting “there are a lot of things that we have not announced,” reports the Times of Oman. He stated: “We have 20 destinations that we are planning, but we are definitely going to increase some of our GCC connections, so we are planning to add Riyadh and Kuwait, as well as more Iranian destinations, such as Mashhad and Tehran”. The airline is also trying “very hard” to expand in Pakistan and India, with Mr Ahmed pointing towards the community’s demand and need. He added: “I think in 2019, we will have the expansion plan; all of our new aircraft will arrive, they will be brand new, and we will be the leaders in bringing these aircraft to Oman”.


Afghanistan takes control of civil airspace following commissioning of new radar system
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has announced the installation of a new radar system at Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport. Mr Ghani also affirmed Afghani air traffic controllers will operate the system, with Afghanistan to take control of its civil airspace. Mr Ghani said “hundreds of millions of dollars” were previously paid for outsourced air services.


Middle East Airlines and Saudia expand codeshare agreement
Middle East Airlines and Saudia expanded their codeshare agreement to include all services by both carriers between Beirut and Dammam, Jeddah and Riyadh, effective 15-Aug-2018. The carriers will codeshare on 57 weekly services between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia and members of both airlines’ frequent flyer programmes will be able to earn and redeem miles on both carriers. The agreement previously covered Middle East Airlines’ Beirut-Dammam service. Middle East Airlines and Saudia are both members of SkyTeam.


Kuwait Airways inaugurates flights from new terminal at Kuwait International Airport
Kuwait Airways has launched its first services from Kuwait International Airport’s new terminal four. The new terminal, used exclusively by Kuwait Airways and its subsidiaries, will play an important role in the ongoing development of Kuwait’s aviation industry. The new passenger terminal features a total area of 55,000sqm, 14 departure gates consisting of nine bridge gates and five ground gates, as well as 10 arrival gates consisting of nine bridge gates and a ground gate.


Qatar Airways receives US DoT approval to codeshare with Malaysia Airlines
Qatar Airways has received a statement of authorisation from the US Department of Transportation (DoT) to codeshare with Malaysia Airlines on services operated by Qatar Airways between Qatar and the United States of America (USA), for an indefinite period.


Route Updates

  • Qatar Airways plans to increase Doha-Oslo frequency from seven to ten times weekly on 01-Sep-2018. The airline will operate Boeing 787-8 aircraft on the route.
  • Norwegian plans to launch five times weekly Oslo-Dubai service with Boeing 737 MAX 8 equipment, effective 28-Oct-2018.
  • Etihad Airways plans to deploy a Boeing 787-9 aircraft on one of two daily Abu Dhabi-Manchester frequencies from 01-Nov-2018, replacing 777-300ER aircraft.
  • Air Arabia plans to commence five times weekly Sharjah-Prague service on 11-Dec-2018. Prague will be the airline’s 16th destination in Europe, according to OAG.
  • Aeroflot plans to launch daily Moscow Sheremetyevo-Dubai Al Maktoum service from 29-Oct-2018, operating with Boeing 737 aircraft. Aeroflot also operates three times daily to Dubai International Airport.
  • Qatar Airways plans to operate a sixth daily Doha-Bangkok Suvarnabhumi frequency over winter 2018/19. The airline also serves Chiang Mai, Krabi, Phuket and Utapao in Thailand, according to OAG.

  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Intra-Middle East system movements (as at w/c 13-Aug-2018)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG