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.

Royal Jordanian reports USD40.2m in online sales for 1H2019, sales of extras up 17%

Royal Jordanian has reported online sales grew from JOD39.8 million (USD56.1 million) in 1H2018 to JOD40.2 million (USD56.6 million) in 1H2019. Sales of extras increased by 17% to JOD10 million (USD14.1 million) and revenue of the loyalty programme increased by 44%. Cost per available seat kilometre dropped 3%. The airline recorded a 1% year-on-year increase in passengers for 1H2019 with a seat load factor of 73.1%, up from 72.8% in 1H2018. Royal Jordanian’s president CEO Stefan Pichler projected the carrier will end 2019 with a net profit and further enhance its competitive position in the market.

Etihad Airways and launch frequent flyer programme agreement

Etihad Airways signed a frequent flyer programme agreement with, which enables Etihad Guest members to earn miles when booking accommodation through on a special co-branded version of the website. Customers will earn between three and six Etihad Guest Miles for every USD1 spent, effective 01-Aug-2019.

Bahrain Airport Company enters airport shuttle agreement with Bahrain Limo

Bahrain Airport Company has entered a four year agreement with Bahrain Limo to operate shuttle services between Bahrain International airport’s terminal building, car park D and the overflow car park. The 25 seat shuttle buses are complimentary to passengers using car park D and overflow carpark facilities and operate every 15 minutes.

Egypt’s Aviation Ministry introduces additional departure fees

Egypt’s Aviation Minister Younis al-Masry has confirmed the introduction of fees for domestic and international departures from the country’s airports. The fees are part of a developmental plan for airport infrastructure, lounges, runways and construction projects. These fees are as follows: USD25 for each passenger departing on scheduled and charter services; USD5 for each passenger departing on domestic services; USD2 from each passenger at Egyptian airports; USD4 per passenger at Sharm el-Sheikh International airport for the development of security systems and procedures. Alongside the fees there will also be a 15% increase in landing and parking fees.

Saudi GACA introduces self service check in for pilgrims at Jeddah and Madinah airports

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has introduced integrated self service check in procedures at Jeddah King Abdulaziz International and Madinah Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International airports to support Hajj pilgrim traffic. GACA reported the new check in procedures reduce processing time for passengers and improve technical and security practices. Travellers at the airports can complete all travel procedures themselves, including checking in, printing and scanning boarding passes, and checking and tagging luggage.

News Briefs

  • Emirates Airline’s SVP inflight catering Joost Heymeijer has stated the carrier plans to introduce pre-order inflight meals in 2019. Mr Heymeijer added that as part of its future premium economy class offering passengers will be able to select their meals from business class offerings.
  • Iran’s Deputy Transport Minister Shahram Adamnejad stated major government departments, including the Ministry of Communications are contributing to plans to launch satellite based inflight WiFi for Iranian carriers.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 05-Aug-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

  • BOC Aviation signed a purchase and leaseback agreement with Qatar Airways for three new A350 aircraft. The aircraft are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. The three transactions are expected to close in 3Q2019.
  • Etihad Airways deployed Boeing 787-9 equipment on Abu Dhabi-Lagos service, effective 02-Aug-2019. The 787-9 aircraft features business and economy cabins configured with 28 Business Studios and 271 Economy Smart Seats.
  • Kuwait Airways plans to replace Boeing 777-300ER with A330-200 equipment on four times weekly Kuwait-Frankfurt service, effective 27-Oct-2019, reports Routes Online.
  • Qatar Airways received one Boeing 777F (A7-BFQ, MSN 66335), as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The carrier now operates 17 aircraft of the type.
  • Lufthansa plans to replace A330-300 with A340-300 aircraft on daily Frankfurt-Dubai service, commencing 29-Mar-2020.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 05-Aug-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

  • flydubai announced plans to launch daily Dubai-Yangon-Krabi service, effective 10-Dec-2019. flydubai will be the first UAE carrier to operate to Krabi.
  • Nile Air plans to launch three new Kuwait services in Aug-2019 with a four times weekly link from Sohag from 08-Aug-2019; a three times weekly flights from Assiut from 08-Aug-2019 (increasing to four times weekly, effective 19-Aug-2019); and a twice weekly Luxor service. All three routes will be flown using A320 equipment.
  • IndiGo commenced daily Mumbai-Kuwait service on 05-Aug-2019. The LCC deploys A320 aircraft on the service. Kuwait Airways and Jazeera Airways also operate the route, according to OAG.
  • SalamAir is reportedly in negotiations with the Special Economic Zone Authority of Duqm (SEZAD) to establish a Muscat-Duqm service.
  • SWISS plans to commence weekly Geneva-Marsa Alam service on 31-Oct-2019. The airline will operate the service with A220 aircraft.