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.

Dubai Airports confirms it is reviewing its long term master plan

Dubai Airports stated it is reviewing its long term master plan to “ensure infrastructure development takes full advantage of emerging technologies, responds to consumer trends and preferences and optimises investment to grow its already significant contributions to Dubai’s economy”. The company stated that the “exact timelines and details of next steps are not as yet finalised.” Dubai Airports operates Dubai International Airport and Dubai World Central. Construction work on Dubai World Central has reportedly been halted, with financing for the development of the airport frozen. As previously reported, passenger traffic at Dubai International Airport declined 5.6% year-on-year in 1H2019.

Sabre and Apiso partner to increase virtual payments adoption across Middle East

Sabre and Apiso announced a partnership to increase virtual payments adoption in the travel industry across the Middle East. The technical integration will promote Apiso’s product offering as the preferred payment solution for Sabre Virtual Payments’ customers. It will also enable Sabre to scale the volume of payment transactions processed through its global distribution system and other technology solutions globally.

Jazeera Airways and Cozmo Travel launch Jazeera Holidays

Jazeera Airways partnered with Cozmo Travel to launch ‘Jazeera Holidays’, a new holiday and leisure service. The new Jazeera Holidays portal enables passengers to select their destination as well as a range of hotels and local tour options. Jazeera Airways CEO Rohit Ramachandran stated: “Jazeera Holidays is a one stop shop platform that enables customers to book great value holidays”.

ACI Asia-Pacific: Middle East airports benefit from Ramadan timing in Jun-2019

ACI Asia-Pacific reported passenger traffic at Middle East airports grew +8.1% year-on-year in Jun-2019. Many airports benefited from the shift in timing of Ramadan and reported positive results. Airports with the highest volume increase were Doha International (+19.2%), Dubai International (+4.2%) and Sharjah International (+17.5%). This meant Middle East airport traffic grew +2.5% year-on-year in 1H2019, while air freight traffic declined 2.7% in the period.

Qatar Airways to launch Langkawi service

Qatar Airways announced plans to launch four times weekly Doha-Penang-Langkawi service, effective 15-Oct-2019. The carrier will operate the service with Boeing 787 equipment. The carrier plans to increase the frequency to five times weekly, effective 27-Oct-2019. Mr Al Baker stated the new service will “increase accessibility and boost inbound tourism to Langkawi”, which is “one of the most highly sought after destinations in Malaysia”.

News Briefs

  • Oman Air has become the latest carrier to prohibit the carriage of older generation 15 inch MacBook Pro models in checked luggage, due to fire concerns.
  • Iranian authorities have reportedly decided to grant Qatari passport holders tourist visas on arrival at Iranian airports.
  • Maldives recorded 27,679 Middle East visitor arrivals in 1H2019, up +19.7% year-on-year, according to Maldives Ministry of Tourism.
  • Iran Airports Company head Siavash Amir-Mokri has stated the country’s ministry of roads and urban development plans to launch air taxi services for passenger transportation.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 02-Sep-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

  • flynas took delivery of one A320neo aircraft (HZ-NS25, MSN 9163) on 27-Aug-2019, as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The aircraft is leased from BOC Aviation.
  • Kuwait Airways received (01-Sep-2019) one A320neo aircraft. The carrier has 14 remaining A320neo aircraft on order, which will be phased in over the coming years. The airline’s chairman Yousef A M J Alasqer stated the carrier plans to invest KWD2.5 billion (USD8.2 billion) in 28 new aircraft due to be delivered by 2026.
  • Etihad Airways plans to operate twice daily Abu Dhabi-Manchester service  and daily Abu Dhabi-Frankfurt  service with Boeing 787-10 equipment, effective 21-Dec-2019 and 01-Feb-2020, respectively.
  • BOC Aviation signed a sale and lease back agreement with Middle East Airlines for up to 10 A321neo aircraft. The aircraft are powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-JM engines and are expected to be delivered in 2020 and 2021.
  • Emirates Airline plans to operate Dubai-Copenhagen route with Boeing 777-300ER instead of A380 equipment, operating between 02-Sep-2019 and 30-Sep-2019, reports Routes Online.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 02-Sep-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

  • Iran Air has launched a three times weekly Tehran-Bojnourd service. The route is already operated by Mahan Air and Iran Aseman Airlines.
  • Air India plans to commence four times weekly Delhi-Doha service on 28-Oct-2019. Qatar Airways and IndiGo also operate the route, according to OAG.
  • China Eastern Airlines launched a three times weekly Xian-Dubai service with A330-200 aircraft, effective 29-Aug-2019. The service is the carrier’s third nonstop service to Dubai after Shanghai and Qingdao.
  • Biman Bangladesh Airlines plans to commence four times weekly Dhaka-Madinah service on 28-Oct-2019. The airline will operate the service with 271 seat Boeing 787-8 aircraft with Biman the sole scheduled operator on the route.
  • Air Arabia is reportedly exploring plans to launch a Sharjah-Surat service.
  • IndiGo plans to commence daily Delhi-Kuwait service on 12-Oct-2019. The LCC will deploy A320 aircraft on the service. Kuwait Airways and Jazeera Airways also operate the route, according to OAG.
  • Himalaya Airlines plans to increase Kathmandu-Abu Dhabi frequency from four times weekly to daily from 10-Sep-2019. Etihad Airways also operates the route, according to OAG.