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.

Gulf Air CEO reports strong demand for new premium product

Gulf Air CEO Krešimir Kucko, speaking at last week’s CAPA Airline CEOs in Seoul Summit, stated the airline has experienced strong demand for its new premium product, which was introduced in 2018 with delivery of its first Boeing 787. Mr Kucko said the new business class product is on par with first class on other airlines. Gulf Air’s new economy class product also has been well received and is positioned as one of the top economy class products in the airline industry. “On certain routes we have increased capacity significantly and have better results”, Mr Kucko said.

Dubai Airports CEO: Consumers reluctant to embrace new transport technologies

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths, speaking at last week’s CAPA Airline CEOs in Seoul Summit, stated new transportation technologies are already available, but consumers are reluctant to embrace them. Mr Griffiths said: “The resistance is more about the resistance to change than the resistance to technology”. He pointed to driverless cars, which are now proven to be safer than cars with drivers. “The technology is there and we should trust it more”, Mr Griffiths said.

Qatar Airways chief officer cargo: ‘The market is going down but… there is no reason to panic’

Qatar Airways chief officer cargo Guillaume Halleux commented on airfreight market conditions, stating: “We cannot deny that the market is going down but for us there is no reason to panic”. He added: “This is a very cyclical industry. The air cargo industry enjoyed 36 months of consecutive growth so we knew it would turn around at some point”.

Abu Dhabi Airports and Etihad Airways sign airport facilitation MoU with other government entities

Abu Dhabi Airports, Etihad Airways, General Administration of Customs, Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship and Abu Dhabi Police signed an MoU to enhance the quality of passenger services at Abu Dhabi International Airport. The MoU covers airport efficiency, passenger facilitation, and connecting and journey times.

Oman records Indian arrivals up +12.37% in 2018

Oman’s Ministry of Tourism recorded 357,147 Indian arrivals in 2018, up 12.37% year-on-year. The Ministry of Tourism recorded 130,011 Indian arrivals during the period from Jan-2019 to Apr-2019, up 17% year-on-year. Oman Ministry of Tourism India Representative Lubaina Sheerazi attributed this growth to introduction of short term visa and electronic visa, direct service connectivity to various Indian cities and the opening of the new terminal at Muscat Seeb International Airport.

Emirates Airline president hopes Dubai-India traffic rights discussions will resume soon

Emirates Airline president Tim Clark reportedly expressed hope that discussions regarding the allocation of additional traffic rights for services connecting Dubai to destinations in India will resume now that “the elections are over and the Modi government is back in power”. Sir Tim noted “there has been no seat increase between India and Dubai for the last five years”, despite it being a highly profitable route. He opined that providing Jet Airways with greater access to Dubai would have eased some of the airline’s financial problems.

News Briefs

  • Bahrain’s Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Kamal Ahmed reported the development of a second airport for the country is part of a “wish list” for improving connectivity, and a new facility could be operational by 2034.
  • Fitch Ratings affirmed Etihad Airways‘ long-term issuer default rating (IDR) at ‘A’ with a stable outlook and senior unsecured rating at ‘A’.

  • CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 10-Jun-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 received one A350-1000 (A7-ANI, MSN 241) as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The airline now operates 44 A350 aircraft with 35 remaining on order.
  • Oman Air will wet lease a SriLankan Airlines A330-300 aircraft (4R-ALM, MSN 1583). SriLankan has a fleet of seven A330-300 aircraft, according the CAPA Fleet Database.
  • SalamAir has received a second Airbus A320neo aircraft. Four additional A320neos are scheduled to be delivered in 2019, bringing the total number of A320neos in the airline’s fleet to six. SalamAir CEO Mohammed Ahmed stated: “We are also expecting another A320neo aircraft delivery in Jun-2019.”
  • Turkish Airlines reportedly plans to deploy A350-900 aircraft on daily Istanbul-Dubai service from 14-Apr-2020, according to Routes Online. The carrier plans to take delivery of five A350-900 aircraft in 2020.
  • IndiGo reportedly plans to deploy A321neo aircraft, replacing A320 aircraft, on daily international services on the Delhi-Abu Dhabi (from 15-Jun-2019); Mumbai-Abu Dhabi: (from 16-Jun-2019); Delhi-Doha (from 01-Jul-2019); and Mumbai-Doha (also from 01-Jul-2019) city pairs.
  • Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker stated the carrier will be the first airline to receive the Boeing 777X aircraft. As previously reported by CAPA, Qatar Airways expects to start receiving its order of 100 777X aircraft in mid 2020.

  • CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 10-Jun-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

  • flynas plans to launch twice weekly Jeddah-Sarajevo service, effective 01-Jul-2019. The carrier also plans to increase Riyadh-Sarajevo frequency from three to five times weekly, effective 01-Jul-2019.
  • Qatar Airways launched daily Doha-Malta service, effective 04-Jun-2019. The carrier operates the route with A320 equipment.
  • Saudia launched four times weekly Riyadh-Athens service, effective 05-Jun-2019.
  • Armenia Airlines reportedly plans to resume three times weekly Yerevan-Tehran service from 15-Jun-2019, increasing to a daily operation from 24-Jun-2019. The carrier suspended the service in Nov-2017, according to OAG.
  • Ethiopian Airlines plans to commence three times weekly Addis Ababa-Amman service on 17-Jul-2019, according to the CAPA Route Changes Database. The airline will operate the service with Boeing 737-800 equipment. It will be the only nonstop connection between Ethiopia and Jordan.
  • IndiGo plans to commence daily Mumbai-Dammam service on 05-Jul-2019. Dammam will be the LCC’s 18th international destination.