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.


Royal Jordanian launches new wirless IFE system on A320 fleet

Royal Jordanian has partnered with Bluebox Wow to launch a new wireless inflight entertainment system (IFE) on its fleet of four A319 and six A320 aircraft. The new IFE service is deployed on the Bluebox Wow portable wireless IFE system, which streams content to passengers’ personal devices on both Crown and economy classes. Royal Jordanian president and CEO Stefan Pichler said delivering wireless IFE to passengers’ own devices is a “cost effective” and “quick way” to modernise the IFE on the carrier’s “medium and short haul fleet”.


Etihad Airways launches senior Emiratis Basma programme

Etihad Airways confirmed it signed a MoU with the UAE Ministry of Community Development to launch the Etihad Senior Emiratis Basma Programme. The programme offers benefits to senior UAE nationals when using the airline. Etihad Airways also signed an agreement with Abu Dhabi Airports to provide Basma members with a range of benefits at Abu Dhabi International airport. Features of the Basma programme include access to Silver status with Etihad Guest, 25% bonus Guest Miles, discounts on upgrade using miles at the airport and priority check in at Abu Dhabi International airport.


Qatar Airways launches seventh Turkish destination with Doha-Izmir service

Qatar Airways has launched three times weekly Doha-Izmir service. The carrier operates the route with A320 equipment. The new route marks the airline’s seventh Turkish destination. Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said the service will strengthen the carrier’s “robust presence in the Turkish market”, while providing passengers travelling from Turkey with enhanced connectivity to more than 160 destinations.


Estonia to ratify air services agreement with UAE; flydubai to launch Tallinn-Dubai service

Estonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu said Estonia’s Government approved a bill allowing parliament to ratify an agreement on air services between Estonia and the UAE. Mr Reinsalu said flydubai is now expected to launch Tallinn-Dubai service in winter 2019/2020.


Doha Airport undertaking tender process for phase three expansion project

Doha Hamad International airport COO Badr Mohammed Al Meer has confirmed the airport is undertaking the tender process to appoint construction contractors for its phase three expansion project. Mr Meer reported the phase three works are expected to commence in 2Q2019 or 3Q2019 and be completed prior to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.


Etihad Airways supports rise in Air Serbia flights into London

Air Serbia reportedly wet leased a two class, 136 seat Etihad Airways A320 aircraft for the operation of Belgrade-London Heathrow service, according to specialist news platform EX-YU Aviation News. Air Serbia has increased Belgrade-London Heathrow frequency from nine to 16 times weekly with the additional frequencies operated by Etihad Airways. Air Serbia is utilising a slot pair at Heathrow that was previously used by Jet Airways.


Abu Dhabi Airports launches launches ‘One Stop Shop’ online service for Free Zone

Abu Dhabi Airports announced its Free Zone has launched ‘One Stop Shop’, an online service to assist with setting up businesses. The online portal offers users online services such as a company dashboard for access to employment visa related requests, letter and certificate requests, employment cards and access passes, registration services and licensing services.


News Briefs

  • Jet Aviation will relocate to a new and larger 600sqm facility area within the shared FBO terminal at Riyadh King Khalid International Airport. The airport is undergoing a major expansion to accommodate more traffic and Jet Aviation expects its new refurbished FBO to be operational by 4Q2019.
  • Kazakhstan’s Civil Aviation Committee has announced its chairman Talgat Lastaev and UAE’s Ambassador to Kazakhstan Mohammed Al Jaber discussed the possibility of expanding the air services network and Emirates Airline launching services to Kazakhstan. Air Astana, Etihad Airways, flydubai and Air Arabia currently together operate 28 times weekly between Kazakhstan and the UAE.
  • Sharjah Airport in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has reported strong Apr-2019 traffic results. Passenger levels were up +25.3% year-on-year to 1.2 million; cargo levels rose +27.7% to 15,448 tons and aircraft movements increased +11.6% to 7,148.
  • Association of Iranian Airlines data shows Iranian airlines operated a total of 218,900 frequencies in FY2018/19, down 14% year-on-year – 178,705 frequencies were operated on domestic routes (-13%), while 35,196 frequencies were operated on international routes (-19%).

  • CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 27-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

  • Gulf Air announced plans to operate a Bahrain-Baku service with Boeing 787-9 equipment on 29-May-2019. The service will cater to demand from fans attending the final of UEFA Europa League.
  • British Airways plans to operate A350 equipment on London Heathrow-Dubai service from 01-Mar-2020 to 28-Mar-2020, replacing 777-200ER equipment
  • Iran Air plans to operate weekly Tehran Imam Khomeini-Moscow Sheremetyevo service with A321 instead of A300 equipment, effective 07-Jun-2019, reports Routes Online.
  • Etihad Airways plans to operate two of seven weekly Abu Dhabi-Kuala Lumpur services with Boeing 777-300ER equipment, replacing 787-9 equipment. The changes will take effect on 02-Jul-2019 and remain in place until 11-Sep-2019.

  • CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 27-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

  • Etihad Airways is offering a daily Al Ain-Jeddah service, operating between 26-May-2019 and 04-Jun-2019 with A330-300 equipment.
  • AtlasGlobal plans to resume Istanbul-Bahrain service on 01-Jun-2019 and increase frequency from weekly to three times weekly, according to the CAPA Route Changes Database. The carrier suspended the service on 06-May-2019.
  • Qatar Airways plans to increase Doha-London Gatwick frequency from 16 to 21 times weekly in summer 2019. The carrier will operate the route with Boeing 787 equipment.
  • FlyBosnia reportedly plans to launch seasonal, weekly Sarajevo-Qassim service from 11-Jun-2019 to 27-Aug-2019. As previously reported, the carrier also plans to launch daily Sarajevo-Riyadh and Sarajevo-Kuwait service from Jun-2019.
  • Azerbaijan Airlines plans to launch weekly Baku-Qassim charter service from 10-Jun-2019, operating with Embraer E190 aircraft. The carrier also plans to operate services to Dammam, Riyadh, Al Ahsa, Jeddah and Madinah, in partnership with PASHA Travel.