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.

Saudia Airlines total traffic growth up 115% in 2018

Saudia announced total traffic growth increased by 115% year-on-year in 2018, handling more than 34 million passengers in the year. The number of Saudia passengers travelling from Europe to global destinations increased 178%. Saudia passengers travelling from Asia and the Asia Pacific also increased by 178%. The carrier registered a 154% growth rate for North America, followed by the Middle East (+144%), the Indian subcontinent (+98%) and Mahatta (+77%) in Africa. The carrier handled more international passengers than domestic passengers for the first time in its history.

SalamAir in talks with Airbus over compensation for delayed A320neo deliveries as it considers new order

SalamAir is in discussions with Airbus over compensation for the delayed delivery of its A320neo aircraft order. The carrier was initially scheduled to take delivery of six aircraft before summer 2019, but will not receive three of the aircraft until after summer 2019. SalamAir CEO Mohamed Ahmed said whatever compensation the airline receives will not recover the loss of revenue it would have generated had it operated at full capacity, as “most airlines do a lot of their profit during the summer season”. Mr Ahmed said the carrier continues to consider a further order for 12 narrowbody Airbus aircraft and is evaluating all options including A321 and A220 aircraft.

Qatar Airways will ‘seriously consider any proposal for partnership from Indian carriers

Qatar Airways reportedly stated it will “seriously consider any proposal for partnership from Indian carriers” in order to offer increased capacity on Qatar-India services following “Jet Airways’ sudden, unexpected, unplanned, and immediate withdrawal of 28 weekly passenger flights during summer peak season between Doha and two Indian cities: New Delhi and Mumbai”. Qatar Airways recently applied to India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation for approval to temporarily increase capacity to India on high volume routes.

Closure of Dubai International Airport southern runway will ‘hit us hard’, says Emirates chairman

Emirates chairman and CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum stated the closure of the southern runway at Dubai International Airport in Apr-2019 and May-2019 is going to “hit us hard” and impact financial results in FY2019/20.

Etihad Airways extends free Abu Dhabi stopover campaign

Etihad Airways has extended  its free Abu Dhabi stopover campaign to the end of 2019. The offer grants Etihad Airways passengers travelling through Abu Dhabi a free two night hotel stay in a range of five star hotels including Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Intercontinental Abu Dhabi, Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi, Pearl Rotana, Courtyard by Marriott WTC, Crowne Plaza and Radisson Blu. The free Abu Dhabi stopover promotion is available for bookings online or via a travel agent made by 01-Dec-2019 for travel until 31-Dec-2019.

News Briefs

  • Royal Jordanian has added the eFawateercom payment option to its website and mobile app. During its first phase, this payment option is only available for customers in Jordan, but during its second phase it will be extended to cover all points worldwide.
  • DHL Express has extended the lease agreement for its regional hub at Bahrain International Airport for a further ten years. The 57,000 square metre facility accounts for more than half (56%) the total airfreight operations at the airport.
  • Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority has signed an executive memorandum for the regulation of air transport services with the Kuwait Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
  • IBS Software is in talks with Emirates Airline, Saudia and Oman Air to provide digital solutions for their flight and crew operations, customer loyalty and cargo management, according to executive chairman V K Mathews.

  • CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 20-May-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 Group CEO Akbar Al Baker said the airline expects to receive four additional Boeing 777F aircraft by the end of 2019. The carrier operates 16 777Fs and has five on order, according to the CAPA Fleet Database.
  • EgyptAir plans to operate Boeing 787-9 equipment on three times weekly Cairo-Beijing service, effective 25-Jun-2019, replacing 777-300ER equipment, according to Routes Online.
  • Kam Air received one Boeing 767-300ER aircraft (MSN 25534) on lease. According to the CAPA Fleet Database, the aircraft was formerly with Aerosvit Airlines in Ukraine and before that was delivered ne to Royal Brunei Airlines
  • Etihad Airways plans to operate Abu Dhabi-Johannesburg service with Boeing 787-9 equipment replacing A330-200 equipment from 20-Oct-2019.
  • Kuwait Airways received one A320 aircraft (MSN 4357) on lease. The aircraft was formerly operated by US ULCC Allegiant Air.

  • CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 20-May-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

  • Air Arabia plans to launch a four times weekly Sharjah-Bishkek service from 02-Jul-2019 and a four times weekly Sharjah-Tunis service from 04-Jul-2019, using Airbus A320 equipment.
  • SpiceJet announced plans to commence daily Mumbai-Jeddah service on 05-Jul-2019. The LCC will deploy Boeing 737 aircraft on the service.
  • Iraqi Airways postponed the relaunch of weekly Baghdad-Damascus service due to administrative issues between the airline and the Syrian Civil Aviation Authority.
  • Saudia announced it has increased Riyadh-Al’ula frequency to four times weekly, operating until 22-Oct-2019.
  • GoAir reportedly plans to increase Kannur-Abu Dhabi and Kannur-Muscat frequency from three times weekly to daily, commencing 31-May-2019. The LCC commenced both services in Feb-2019.
  • FlyBosnia reportedly plans to launch daily Sarajevo-Riyadh service from 03-Jun-2019, according to EX YU Aviation News.
  • Air India reportedly plans to increase Delhi-Dubai and Mumbai-Dubai frequency from daily to twice daily, commencing 01-Jun-2019.