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.

US FAA prohibits US civil aviation from operating in overwater area above Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) on 21-Jun-2019, prohibiting US civil aviation from operating in the overwater area of the Tehran flight information region above the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman until further notice, due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the region, which the FAA stated presents an inadvertent risk to US civil aviation operations and potential for miscalculation or misidentification. The FAA noted the risk is demonstrated by the Iranian surface to air missile which shot down a US unmanned aircraft system on 19-Jun-2019 while it was operating in the vicinity of civil air routes above the Gulf of Oman.

Air Arabia confirms implementation of AirFi wireless IFE

Air Arabia has confirmed the implementation of the AirFi ‘SkyTime’ wireless IFE system across its A320 fleet following a trial on 10 aircraft. Air Arabia is AirFi’s seventh customer in the Middle East and North Africa market.

Sabre selected as exclusive technology provider for Global Travel and Tourism

Sabre announced it has been selected as the exclusive technology provider for Bahrain travel agency, Global Travel and Tourism. Under this agreement, Global Travel will have access to Sabre’s portfolio of technology and intelligence platform, Sabre Red 360.

Emirates: Steaming content to aircraft a ‘real challenge’

Emirates VP customer experience, in flight entertainment and connectivity Patrick Brannelly stated streaming content through satellites to aircraft is “horrifically expensive” and a “real challenge” due to licensing issues. Mr Brannelly added: “Emirates’ ICE system offers a huge choice from the best content available, comparable with streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix”.

Pakistan Government provides USD16m for outstanding PIA payments to Saudi GACA: reports

Pakistan’s Ministry of Finance reportedly sourced PKR2.5 billion (USD15.9 million) from the Ministry of Religious Affairs to enable Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to make outstanding payments to Saudia Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) to ensure the airline is able to operate Hajj services in 2019. The payments reportedly relate to parking, ground handling and aeronautical charges. The funds from the Religious Affairs Ministry were reportedly derived from payments by prospective Hajj pilgrims. PIA plans to operate 350 Hajj services between 04-Jul-2019 and 14-Sep-2019 and will handle 78,000 pilgrims.

News Briefs

  • Iran Airports & Air Navigation Company announced Tabriz Airport has completed its ‘Western Operon Development Project’. The project entailed doubling the airport’s aircraft capacity and development of its ATC facilities.
  • Airports Council International World projected the national aviation sector’s contribution to the UAE GDP will rise to AED323.6 billion (USD88 billion) by 2030.
  • Canadian Transportation Agency has extended Middle East Airlines‘ temporary licence to place its code on flights between Lebanon and Canada through to 30-Jun-2020.
  • Royal Jordanian has expanded its codeshare agreement with Qatar Airways to include the latter’s Doha-Nairobi service.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 24-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

  • flynas signed an MoU with Airbus for 10 A321XLR aircraft, taking the carrier’s A320neo family order to 88 aircraft. As part of the agreement, the airline will also convert 10 A320neo currently on order to A321neo aircraft.
  • Emirates Airline received one A380 (A6-EVG, MSN 256) as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. This is the carrier’s 110th A380. It has 13 remaining on order.
  • Gulf Air has taken delivery of a third A320neo. This delivery is part of a major fleet development project, which will see the airline receive a total of 12 Airbus A320neo aircraft by the end of 2023.
  • Qatar Airways announced a commitment to purchase five additional Boeing 777F aircraft, valued at USD1.8 billion at list price.
  • IndiGo plans to replace A320 aircraft with A321neo aircraft on daily Chennai-Doha service and daily Kozhikode-Doha service, commencing 05-Jul-2019.
  • Bombardier Commercial Aircraft has announced the delivery of one new CRJ900 aircraft to Petroleum Air Services.
  • Oman Air plans to replace A330-300 with Boeing 787-9 aircraft on daily Muscat-Jakarta service from Sep-2019, reports Routes Online.
  • Wings of Lebanon CEO Naji Majdalani has stated the airline plans to lease a second Boeing 737 for delivery by the end of 2019.
  • Qatar Airways reported Qatar Executive received one Gulfstream G650ER and one G500 aircraft, taking the total number of aircraft operated by the charter operation to 18.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 24-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

  • Etihad Airways plans to launch four times weekly Abu Dhabi-Salalah service, operating between 02-Jul-2019 and 31-Aug-2019. The carrier will operate the route with A320 equipment.
  • Air Peace confirmed plans to commence operations to Dubai via Sharjah with Boeing 777 equipment on 05-Jul-2019.
  • Onur Air plans to launch four new routes into Iraq in the coming weeks. Starting with a weekly Antalya-Erbil operation from 24-Jun-2019, it will add weekly Bodrum Milas-Basrah (from 29-Jun-2019), Antalya-Baghdad (from 02-Jul-2019) and Bodrum Milas-Baghdad (from 03-Jul-2019).
  • IndiGo reportedly plans to resume daily Thiruvananthapuram-Doha service on 01-Aug-2019, following a brief suspension since 02-May-2019.
  • China Eastern Airlines plans to launch three times weekly Qingdao-Dubai service with A330 aircraft, effective 29-Jun-2019. China Eastern also launched Qingdao-Paris CDG service earlier in Jun-2019.