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.

This weekly round-up delivers some of the key aviation and travel news stories from across the Middle East region.

  • Travelport reports 20% increase in Mecca arrivals ahead of Hajj 2018
  • New Kuwait Airport terminal a ‘qualitative step forward’ for Kuwaiti civil aviation
  • Gulf Air takes delivery of its first Airbus A320neo
  • Jazeera Airways joins Amadeus GDS
  • NAS launches arrivals baggage delivery service at Kuwait Airport
  • CAPA notes lack of airport privatisation in Middle East outside Saudi Arabia
  • Emirates SkyCargo introduces door to door transportation service for pets
  • ROUTE UPDATE: latest route launches and announcements
  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East system seats by alliance (w/c 20-Aug-2018)

Travelport reports 20% increase in Mecca arrivals ahead of Hajj 2018
Travelport has reported Mecca arrivals increased 20% year-on-year ahead of Hajj 2018, as of 31-Jul-2018. Travelport projects up to three million pilgrims are expected to participate, arriving mainly into airports including Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport, Taif International Airport and Madinah Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz Airport. Every year, in excess of one million people from all over the world fly into western Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj, making it one of the largest annual spikes in global air traffic. According to Travelport’s analysis, as of 31-Jul-2018, flights from Pakistan had seen the greatest growth in bookings through GDS around Mecca when compared to last year’s Hajj, with volume up 13,788 (+61%). Bookings from the United Kingdom saw the second highest rise, with volume up 4,324 (+47%). Bahrain came third having registered 4,306 more bookings (+173%) vs 2017. India and the United Arab Emirates completed the top five positions in the table. India saw an increase in bookings of 3,791 (+19%), while the United Arab Emirates recorded a rise of 2,887 (+24%). Overall, flight bookings around Mecca through GDS had been made from 148 countries around the world.


New Kuwait Airport terminal a ‘qualitative step forward’ for Kuwaiti civil aviation
Kuwait’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation chairman Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al-Humoud Al-Sabah has stated the new terminal at Kuwait International Airport is a “qualitative step forward for the Kuwaiti civil aviation”. He noted in a local interview that the operation of the terminal by Incheon International Airport Corporation is a new experience, “which we hope will prove successful”. He added: “We hope through the new terminal to achieve our goals amid the fiery competition facing us in the world of aviation and cargo”.


Gulf Air takes delivery of its first Airbus A320neo
Gulf Air has taken delivery of an Airbus A320neo aircraft powered by CFM LEAP-1A engines, the first of 29 A320neo family aircraft on order. Gulf Air operates 28 Airbus aircraft and is the first Middle Eastern national carrier to operate the A320neo. The airline had also been the first in the region to receive the original A320 version, now known as the A320ceo, back in 1992. Earlier this year Gulf Air received 3 Boeing 787-90 Dreamliner aircraft as it continues its major fleet development project which will see by end of 2023 a total of 39 new aircraft: 10 Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner, 12 Airbus A320neo and 17 Airbus A321neo aircraft.


Jazeera Airways joins Amadeus GDS
Jazeera Airways has adopted Amadeus’ GDS solution, allowing passengers and travel agents to access airfares via the Amadeus system. Amadeus VP airlines Middle East, Turkey and Africa Maher Koubaa noted Jazeera Airways is now one of the largest low cost carriers Amadeus’ customer portfolio. The airline currently handles more than 2.2 million passengers a year across a network of 26 destinations.


NAS launches arrivals baggage delivery service at Kuwait Airport
National Aviation Services (NAS) has introduced ‘Pearl Assist’, a baggage delivery service at Kuwait International Airport that allows passengers to depart the airport without needing to wait for their checked baggage. The home delivery service is available to all passengers and can be delivered to any area in Kuwait. NAS also recently introduced the ‘Pearl Assist’ meet and assist service for departures and arrivals at the new Jazeera Airways T5 terminal.


CAPA notes lack of airport privatisation in Middle East outside Saudi Arabia
CAPA – Centre for Aviation, in a research publication entitled: ‘Airport Finance & Privatisation Review 2018’ stated there is very little airport privatisation activity in the Middle East except in Saudi Arabia, where it has become very popular, due to falling oil revenues and an underlying desire to revise the country’s economic trading platform.


Emirates SkyCargo introduces door to door transportation service for pets
Emirates SkyCargo has launched ‘Emirates Pets’, an airport to airport transportation service for domestic pets available across the airline’s network, and ‘Emirates Pets Plus’, a premium door to door pet transportation service available in 16 markets. The airline transported more than 11,000 domestic pets in the last two years. It says close to 60% of the animals flown have either started or ended their journey in the UAE with nearly 3,000 of the total travelling to the UK.


Route Updates

  • Emirates plans to suspend service between Singapore and Colombo from 28-Oct-2018
  • Gulf Air has delayed the launch of five times weekly Bahrain-Abha service from 16-Sep-2018 to 16-Dec-2018 and five times weekly Bahrain-Tabuk service from 15-Sep-2018 to 15-Dec-2018, subject to government approval. Gulf Air will operate both services with A320 equipment.
  • IndiGo plans to launch daily Ahmedabad-Doha and Thiruvananthapuram-Doha services from 01-Oct-2018 and daily Chennai-Kuwait, daily Kochi-Abu Dhabi and daily Kozhikode-Abu Dhabi services on 15-Oct-2018, reports Airline Route. All five services will operate with A320 aircraft.
  • Qatar Airways plans to reduce Doha-Skopje frequency from four to three times weekly, effective 28-Oct-2018. The carrier operates the service with A320 equipment.
  • Uzbekistan Airways plans to launch twice weekly Tashkent-Jeddah service from 28-Oct-2018, operating with Boeing 767 aircraft. The carrier previously operated the route on a charter basis for Hajj pilgrims.

  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East system seats by alliance (w/c 20-Aug-2018)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG