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.


Emirates to maintain operations at Dubai International for next decade

Emirates president Tim Clark stated the carrier plans to maintain operations at its hub Dubai International airport for the next 10 years. This follows Dubai Airports statement that it is currently reviewing its AED36 billion (USD9.8 billion) master plan to transform Dubai World Central (Al Maktoum Airport) into the world’s busiest airport, with a capacity to serve 250 million passengers per annum. Sir Tim stated that transferring other airlines to existing facilities at Dubai World Central could grant Emirates and flydubai a chance to further expand at Dubai International airport.


Sabre develops new branded website for Etihad Airways

Sabre has recently partnered with Etihad Airways to design a new branded website for the carrier, using Sabre’s ‘Digital Experience’ solution. The company’s SVP commercial solutions Rodrigo Celis said the partnership and development has demonstrated the flexibility of the Sabre commercial platform to “deliver a consistent experience across all channels throughout the travel journey”. The website permits Etihad to deliver personalised offers with ancillary services and encourage their guests to self-service their itineraries.


Iran visitor arrivals up 40% in first four months of Iranian year

Iran recorded nearly three million visitor arrivals for the first four months of the Iranian year (commencing 21-Mar-2019), a 40% increase year-on-year. Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Deputy Minister Vali Teymouri stated more than 80% of “foreign tourists come to Iran with cultural and religious priorities”.


Jazeera terminal enables carrier to ‘control passenger experience end to end’

Jazeera Airways CEO Rohit Ramachandran stated the Jazeera terminal at Kuwait International airport is “a great source of revenue” with a “strong business model” that enables the airline to “control the passenger experience end to end”. Mr Ramachandran added the carrier also benefits from “the duty free, F&B and the other concessions” given out in the terminal. The airline’s CEO says it has managed to resist the downturn experienced by bigger Gulf carriers through a “combination of factors”, including its “aggressive sales and distribution” methodologies, its high aircraft utilisation rate and its “fanatical” management of costs.
MORE… learn more out about Jazeera’s new Kuwait-London route.


Reducing airline carbon emissions is not going to happen ‘overnight’ but over ‘the next couple of decades’

Emirates president Tim Clark said reducing carbon emissions for the airline industry is not going to happen “overnight”. Sir Tim said “we might see some short haul” electric or hybrid aircraft undergoing commercial operations “in the next couple of decades”, but with “with long haul it’s much more difficult to do”.


News Briefs

  • Etihad Airways has partnered with international mobility service provider SIXT to provide airport transfers to passengers globally. Under the scheme, passengers can book the extra transfer service online immediately after purchasing their airline ticket or up to one hour in advance. The service covers various car categories from limousines to SUVs all operated by professional chauffeurs.
  • Qatar Airways has made the high profile appointment of Thierry Antinori as its chief strategy and transformation officer. Prior to this appointment, he served as executive VP and chief commercial officer for Emirates Airline.
  • Saudia plans to launch self service devices for passengers at a number of locations across Saudi Arabia. The self service devices will enable customers to reissue tickets, select seats, book transportation and request WiFi service.
  • Qatar’s Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics has reported a double digit rise in visitor arrivals for the first seven months of the calendar year. Total arrivals rose to 1.2 million during the period, up 10.7% year-on-year. Air arrivals increased to 945,640, up 6% on the same period last year.
  • Dubai Taxi Corporation has expanded its taxi fleet available at Dubai airports to more than 4000 vehicles. The company made more than 800,000 trips during Jul-2019 and Aug-2019, carrying more than one million passengers.
  • Royal Jordanian has signed a contract with Tikram Meet and Greet services. It enables Royal Club members to earn Royal Club award miles when purchasing meet and greet services at Amman’s Queen Alia International airport.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 09-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

  • Qatar Airways took delivery of one A350-1000 aircraft (AZ-ANK, MSN 332) on 05-Sep-2019, as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database.
  • flyadeal CEO Con Korfiatis says the he anticipates the airline making a decision between the CFM LEAP-1A and the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G for its A320neo order by the end of Oct-2019 or the start of Nov-2019.
  • Emirates Airline has confirmed via its social media channels that it has retired its last Boeing 777-300 aircraft from its fleet.
  • Royal Jordanian is due to hold a board meeting in Sep-2019 to decide on one of three fleet renewal options that will see its entire narrowbody fleet replaced.
  • Qatar Airways took delivery of one Boeing 787-9 aircraft (A7-BHA, MSN 64217) on 04-Sep-2019, as recorded by the CAPA Fleets Database.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 09-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

  • SalamAir plans to launch four times weekly Muscat-Abu Dhabi service, effective 10-Sep-2019. Abu Dhabi will be the carrier’s sixth Gulf Cooperation Council destination.
  • Qatar Airways plans to launch five times weekly Doha-Luanda service, effective 29-Mar-2020. The carrier will operate the route with Boeing 787 equipment.
  • Ata Airlines launched twice weekly Tehran-Sabzevar service. The route was previously operated by Mahan Air and Iran Air.
  • Buta Airways plans to launch twice weekly Baku-Riyadh service from 18-Sep-2019 and twice weekly Baku-Dammam service from 28-Oct-2019.
  • GoAir plans to commence daily Kannur-Kuwait service on 19-Sep-2019. Fellow Indian carrier IndiGo also operates the route.
  • flynas has extended three times weekly Riyadh-Batumi service until 30-Sep-2019, operating with A319 and A320 aircraft. The service was initially scheduled from operate from 02-Jun-2019 to 31-Aug-2019.
  • Cham Wings Airlines has resumed Damascus-Isfahan service following an eight year hiatus. The carrier operates the route with A320 equipment.
  • IndiGo plans to commence daily Kozhikode-Sharjah service on 21-Oct-2019, according to the CAPA Route Changes Database. Air India, Air India Express and Air Arabia also operate the route, according to OAG.
  • Turkish Airlines plans to increase Istanbul-Muscat frequency from seven to 10 times weekly, effective 20-Dec-2019. The additional frequency will operate until 27-Mar-2020.