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.

IATA: Middle East and Africa EBIT margin declines in 1Q2019, mixed performance for yields

IATA, in its Jul-2019 Africa and Middle East regional briefing, stated EBIT margin for Africa and the Middle East declined 1.1% year-on-year in 1Q2019. IATA stated passenger yield growth was “mixed across the key international markets in the region” with the Middle East-Asia market continuing to “perform strongly”, posting 14.4% growth in May-2019, while Middle East-Europe declined 1.3%. Middle East RPK growth “eased” to 0.7% year-on-year in May-2019 due to structural changes underway in the region. The pace of growth “softened” across the larger international markets in the region, most notably on Middle East-Europe, which registered a 0.7% decline in volumes. Among the smaller markets, “performance was mixed” with RPK growth picking up in Middle East-North America (+0.6%), “while pressure on volumes intensified” in Africa-Middle East (-8.2). Middle East FTK growth dropped 7%, which was “the largest decline of any region” in May-2019. It was “under pressure” across all its international markets due to the “weaker outcome of the Middle East as a whole”. Freight load factor “picked up modestly” for the Middle East in May-2019, compared to Apr-2019.

Middle East-Europe direct connectivity has more than doubles over this decade

A new report entitled: ‘European airport “connectivity” growth slows’, from CAPA – Centre for Aviation stated growth was fastest from Europe to the Middle East in all connectivity categories from 2009 to 2019, followed by Asia Pacific. For both regions, airport connectivity has more than doubled since 2009. For Europe-Middle East, the highest growth was in direct connectivity (+116.6%), whereas indirect connectivity was more important in Europe-Asia Pacific (+105.7%, versus 59.8% for direct connectivity). The result is not surprising, given superior traffic growth rates in both of those regions, supported by direct connectivity growth targeted particularly by Gulf airlines in the Middle East, which also drives indirect connectivity growth to Asia Pacific.

Etihad Airways and MAG Alliances launch new rewards scheme

Etihad Airways and MAG Lifestyle Development (MAGLD) have formed a strategic partnership to develop a reward initiative between a leading real estate developer and a global airline, the first of its kind in the world. Etihad Guest, the loyalty programme of Etihad Airways, and MAG Alliances, have announced a new reward initiative whereby every customer from MAGLD, the property development arm of MAG Group Holding, will receive benefits including Etihad Guest Miles and tier status upgrades when purchasing property. For every AED 3 spent by customers when purchasing a MAG Lifestyle Development property, one Etihad Guest Mile will be earned, which can be redeemed for Etihad Airways flights, upgrades or even hotel bookings and holiday packages. Etihad’s Reward Shop also has a range of over 3,000 leading brands in electronics, fashion and gifts, all of which can also be redeemed.

dnata’s DUBZ opens check in station at The Dubai Mall

dnata’s DUBZ has opened a new check in station at The Dubai Mall. The station enables passengers to check in, print boarding passes and weigh and secure baggage for delivery to the airport. DUBZ will provide the service for passengers of flydubai, Saudia, flynas, China Southern Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Gulf Air, SaudiGulf Airlines, Royal Jordanian and Ethiopian Airlines.

News Briefs

  • Holidays by flydubai partnered with Millennium Hotels and Resorts Middle East and Africa to enhance the Middle East and Africa tourism sector by granting Millennium Hotels and Resorts and flydubai customers access to benefits and packages offered by Holidays by flydubai.
  • Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation reported a project for the expansion of Abha airport has been  launched. The project consists of expanding the airport’s arrival and departure lounges to reach 805sqm as well as rehabilitating and improving the main runway to increase operational capacity.
  • Bahrain International airport continued its strong 2019 performance with another double-digit rise in passenger levels in Jun-2019. It handled 811,884, up +11.4% year-on-year, bringing the 1H traffic count to 4.7 million, up +15% on the first half of 2018.
  • IrMa Air Service has launched freight operations. The carrier operated its first cargo service to Tehran on 17-Jul-2019, transporting chilled meat using an Ilyushin Il-18D aircraft.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 29-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

  • Ariana Afghan Airlines invited bids for an ACMI contract, covering the wet lease of an aircraft from 15-Aug-2019 to 15-Dec-2019 inclusive. The airline is seeking Boeing 767, 757, 737-800, A330, A300-600 or A320 equipment.
  • Qatar Airways plans to deploy A330-200 equipment on Doha-Sarajevo service between 16-Aug-2019 and 01-Sep-2019, according to EX-YU Aviation News.
  • Air Arabia has received one A321LR (A6-ATC, MSN 8897), as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The aircraft was delivered to Air Lease Corporation and leased to the airline. Air Arabia now operates two A321LR aircraft.
  • British Airways plans to bring forward deployment of A350-1000 equipment on London Heathrow-Dubai service from 08-Oct-2019 to 02-Sep-2019. The service will initially operate five times weekly, before increasing to daily.
  • Emirates Airline has received one A380-800 (A6-EVD, MSN 249), as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The airline now operates 112 A380 aircraft with 11 remaining on order.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 29-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

  • Kuwait Airways plans to launch twice weekly Kuwait-Baku service, effective 01-Aug-2019 with A320 equipment.
  • Mahan Air launched twice weekly Tehran Imam Khomeini-Rome Fiumicino service, effective 02-Jul-2019, according to the CAPA Route Changes Database.
  • Emirates Airline plans to increase Dubai-Bangalore frequency from 21 to 24 times weekly from 27-Oct-2019. The airline will operate the additional frequencies with Boeing 777-200LR aircraft.
  • Pegasus Airlines plans to launch twice weekly Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen-Ras al Khaimah service from 30-Oct-2019, operating with A320 aircraft.
  • Pobeda plans to launch four times weekly Moscow Vnukovo-Dubai service from 04-Oct-2019 and four times weekly Moscow Vnukovo-Eilat service from 22-Oct-2019. The services are scheduled to operate with Boeing 737-800 aircraft.