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.

American Express Global Business Travel to acquire controlling stake in Kanoo Travel

American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) entered an agreement to acquire a 65% stake in Kanoo Travel. GBT will form a JV with YBA Kanoo Group to provide managed travel and events services to clients in the Middle East. The transaction is expected to be complete in 4Q2019 or early 1Q2020.

ATR granted permission to supply spare parts to Iran Air

US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) granted ATR permission to supply Iran Air with spare turboprop parts, allowing it to maintain operations. ATR stated the licence, which expires on 30-Apr-2021, enables it to “export parts, components and tools, update software and provide technology necessary to ensure the safe operation of the aircraft”. Iran Air currently operates 13 ATR 72-600 aircraft.

Etihad Airways decides not to reinvest in Jet Airways

Etihad Airways confirmed it declined to submit a bid on an EoI issued by Jet Airways’ interim resolution professional (IRP) for the purchase of the airline’s assets. Etihad stated it “remained engaged” in the corporate insolvency resolution process for Jet Airways, adding: “but despite the endeavours of everyone involved, there remained very significant issues relating to Jet’s previous liabilities”. Given these issues, Etihad decided “it was neither feasible for nor responsible of Etihad to reinvest in Jet at this time”.

Nirvana Travel & Tourism to launch freight unit

Nirvana Travel & Tourism, via its official Facebook account, posted a report stating the company plans to launch an air, land and sea freight unit. The unit will be based at the company’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi. CEO Alaa Al Ali noted the UAE’s shipping services market is “the fastest growing in the world”.

News Briefs

  • South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs has added the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to its visa waiver list, effective Aug-15. UAE citizens with diplomatic, special, mission and ordinary passports are able to stay in South Africa for up to 90 days without a visa.
  • Saudi Arabia General Authority of Civil Aviation reported its Jul-2019 passenger satisfaction report showing an overall satisfaction rate across airports within the Kingdom of 73%.
  • Emirates Airline says it has carried over 131 million passengers on A380 aircraft in the last 11 years.
  • Buta Airways has announced its daily Tehran services will operate to Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport’s new Salaam Terminal from 01-Sep-2019.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 19-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

  • Kish Air has resumed operations with a grounded A321 aircraft. The aircraft was grounded for 1.5 years and took less than three months to repair. The carrier plans to operate the aircraft on domestic and international services to Kish Island.
  • EgyptAir received one Boeing 787-9 (SU-GEW, MSN 65093), as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The airline now operates six aircraft of this type.
  • Saudia plans to deploy Boeing 787-10 equipment on Dubai and Kuala Lumpur services, effective 01-Oct-2019.
  • Etihad Airways plans to operate one of twice daily Abu Dhabi-Paris CDG service with Boeing 777-300ER instead of A380 equipment, operating from 15-Oct-2019 to 14-Dec-2019 and 02-Feb-2020 to 12-Mar-2020, reports Routes Online.
  • Emirates Airline plans to operate Dubai-Rio de Janeiro Galeao-Buenos Aires Ezeiza service with Boeing 777-300ER instead of -200LR equipment, effective 01-Dec-2019.
  • Qatar Airways plans to operate Doha-Atlanta service with Boeing 777-200LR instead of A350-900/777-300ER equipment, operating between 27-Oct-2019 and 28-Mar-2020.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 19-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

  • Qatar Airways plans to add three frequencies to Doha-Cape Town service, effective 27-Oct-2019. According to OAG, the carrier currently operates daily on the route.
  • Tajik Air has resumed twice weekly Dushanbe-Mashhad service, operating with 250 seat Boeing 767 aircraft. Varesh Airlines also operates the route, according to OAG.
  • Pegasus Airlines plans to launch weekly Izmir-Isfahan service from 20-Aug-2019, operating with 186 seat A320 aircraft. The service will be suspended at the end of Sep-2019.
  • Himalaya Airlines plans to increase Kathmandu-Dammam frequency from four times weekly to daily, commencing 18-Aug-2019, according to the CAPA Route Changes Database. The airline is the sole scheduled operator on the route, according to OAG.