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.

Mayor of Berlin calls for expansion of ASA to allow Emirates air service to Berlin

Germany’s Mayor of Berlin Michael Müller called for the existing air services arrangement (ASA) between Germany and the UAE to be expanded to allow Emirates to operate direct air service to Berlin. “Emirates has the traffic rights for four access points in Germany… In practical terms, this means a restricted access to Berlin, as Emirates would have to give up another German market in order to fly to Berlin”, Mr Müller stated.

Henley & Partners: UAE breaks into top 20 passport rankings for mobility

Henley & Partners reported the UAE has entered the top 20 of its ‘Henley Passport Index’ for the first time in the index’s 14 year history. The country has more than doubled its number of visa free destinations over the past five years. The UAE allows visa-free/visa-on-arrival to 167 countries according to the 3Q2019 update of the index. The index ranks of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa.
READ MORE… via The Blue Swan Daily: Passport power – Brexit bites as UK slips down the ranking as Singapore and Japan hold strongest global documents

IndiGo ‘still awaiting necessary regulatory approvals’ for services to Dammam and Riyadh

IndiGo confirmed it is “still awaiting necessary regulatory approvals” to commence services to Dammam King Fahd International airport and Riyadh King Khaled International airport and “hence will not be able to share the details of the new flights”. As previously reported, the Indian LCC already delayed plans to launch daily Mumbai-Dammam service from 05-Jul-2019 to 05-Aug-2019.

Etihad Cargo focusing on technology instead of global impact

Etihad Airways MD cargo and logistics Abdulla Mohamed Shadid reported the airline has not concentrated enough on improving in key areas such as technology and focused too much on creating a global impact. Mr Shadid said: “Now it is more about choosing the trade lanes we can be competitive in”. The company has reported 22% of the airline’s cargo business went online in the first six months after the launch of the website.

Sabre Corporation and Al Khunaizi Travel sign long term agreement

Al Khunaizi Travel signed a long term agreement with Sabre Corporation to continue to use its technology to provide travel services. Under the agreement, Al Khunaizi Travel will have access to Sabre’s marketplace of more than 400 airlines, 750,000 hotel properties and hundreds of tour operators, rail, car and cruise providers. The agency will access the marketplace through the Sabre Red 360 platform.

News Briefs

  • Qatar’s Government has submitted an application for membership of the ICAO Council for the upcoming council session within category 3, for the election to be held during the ICAO assembly in Sep-2019.
  • IATA has announced the Prince Sultan Aviation Academy (PSAA) agreed to become an IATA Regional Training Partner. Based in Jeddah, PSAA provides flight training, ground training, safety training, and skills development training.
  • Qatar’s Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics reported visitor arrival statistics for the five months ended Apr-2019 were up to 922,132, up +11.3% year-on-year.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 08-Jul-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

  • flyadeal announced an order for 30 A320neo aircraft, with options for a further 20 A320neos. The carrier expects to commence taking delivery from 2021. flyadeal plans to operate an all A320 fleet in the future, as a result of the order which replaces a planned commitment for 30 Boeing 737 MAX airliners.
  • Iran Air plans to deploy A330 aircraft on its Tehran Imam Khomeini-Izmir route, effective 13-Jul-2019, reports Routes Online. The A330 will replace A300-600R equipment.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 08-Jul-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 has launched three times weekly Sharjah-Kuala Lumpur service. The carrier stated the service is the first direct LCC connection between Malaysia and the Gulf Cooperation Council region.
  • Emirates Airline plans to deploy A380 equipment on daily Dubai-Athens service, effective 28-Mar-2020. The A380 operation on the route for summer 2020 will commence eight weeks earlier than summer 2019, reports Routes Online.
  • Mahan Air launched weekly Tehran Imam Khomeini-Shenzhen service, effective 07-Jul-2019. The carrier also serves Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou from Tehran.
  • Druk Air reportedly aims to commence scheduled services to Hong Kong and Dubai once it takes delivery of one A320neo aircraft in 2020.
  • LOT Polish Airlines announced plans to operate Warsaw-Beirut as a year round service. The carrier resumed four times weekly Warsaw-Beirut service in Jun-2019.
  • SpiceXpress plans to commence Mumbai-Sharjah service with Boeing 737-700BCF equipment in Aug-2019. The carrier also plans to commence Mumbai-Dubai freighter service on 01-Aug-2019.
  • Air Peace commenced three times weekly Lagos-Sharjah service with Boeing 777 equipment on 05-Jul-2019. The carrier offers bus connections between Sharjah and Dubai.
  • Air India reportedly plans to commence Kannur-Dubai service and increase Hyderabad-Dubai, Kochi-Dubai and Kozhikode-Dubai frequency for the 2019/20 winter schedule.