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.

flydubai reports USD53.6m loss in 1H2019; results ‘significantly impacted’ by 737 MAX grounding

flydubai reported (30-Sep-2019) a loss of AED196.7 million (USD53.6 million) in 1H2019, down 38% year-on-year. flydubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith stated despite being “cautiously optimistic at the start of 2019” the carrier’s 1H2019 performance was “significantly impacted by the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft”. The airline handled five million passengers in 1H2019, down 7.5% year-on-year due to a reduction in capacity. During the period it launched services to Kozhikode, Tashkent, Naples and Sochi, bringing total number of destinations on its network to 92 destinations in 48 countries.

Etihad Airways is ‘more receptive and responsive’ to Emirates cooperation

While a previously rumoured merger between Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways remains unlikely, Emirates’ president Sir Tim Clark has stated the new management of Etihad Airways is “far more receptive and responsive” to cooperation in areas like fleet management and “there is a view” between the two shareholders that “more should be done to work with them”. The Emirates boss says the airline’s own growth has reached a “plateau of consolidation”.

Dubai International airport plans new biometric boarding system

Dubai’s General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) general director Mohammad Al Merri reported plans to introduce a new biometric boarding system at Dubai International airport. Mr Al Merri said the system enables passengers to “no longer need to show their passports or IDs. Travellers can walk through the terminal to the airplane just by showing his or her face”.

VFS Global relocates visa application centre in Abu Dhabi

VFS Global announced the relocation of its Visa Application Centre in Abu Dhabi to a location with improved amenities and infrastructure. From this centre, customers can apply for visas to 27 countries. In 2018, VFS Global processed approximately 500,000 applications from the UAE alone, and Abu Dhabi centre accounted for over 80,000 visa applications.

Abu Dhabi International airport closes City Terminal

Abu Dhabi Airports confirmed the permanent closure of its City Terminal, effective from 06:00 on 03-Oct-2019. It said the terminal closure falls in line with Abu Dhabi International airport’s “commitment to providing passengers with a streamlined and comfortable experience that allows passengers departing from the airport easy access to their flights and onward destinations”.

News Briefs

  • flydubai completed the first Split Scimitar Winglets installation on its fleet of Boeing 737-800 aircraft, making it the first carrier in the Middle East to invest in the technology. Up to 30 737-800 aircraft are to be fitted with the winglets between Sep-2019 and Oct-2020.
  • Qatar’s Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics reported visitor arrivals for the year-to-date (eight months Jan-2019 to Aug-2019) have reached 1.3 million up +11.4% year-on-year, the vast majority of arrivals have been by air via Hamad International airport with a year-on-year growth of +7.2%.
  • Etihad Airways has partnered with Retail inMotion to launch ‘Vibe’, a new lifestyle shopping guide that replaced the airline’s onboard Boutique catalogue, effective 01-Oct-2019. Vibe will be available onboard in print and through the IFE.
  • Emirates Airline reported it has carried more than 7.3 million passengers on Dubai-Cairo service since it commenced operations to Cairo in Apr-1986.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 07-Oct-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

  • Saudia received one Boeing 787-10 (HZ-AR24, MSN 40050), as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The aircraft is the first 787-10 to be delivered to the airline.
  • Air Arabia is scheduled to receive one A320-200neo aircraft (A6-ATB, MSN 8861) on 01-Nov-2019, as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The aircraft is owned and managed by Air Lease Corporation (ALC).
  • Qatar Airways is scheduled to receive one A350-1000 (A7-ANL, MSN 346) on the 01-Nov-2019, as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The airline has received two new Boeing 777F aircraft (A7-BFR, MSN 66336 and A7-BFS, MSN 66337) and now operates 19 aircraft of the type.

  • CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 07-Oct-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

  • Mahan Air plans to increase Tehran Imam Khomeini-Rome Fiumicino frequency from weekly to twice weekly, effective 29-Oct-2019. The airline also operates Tehran-Milan Malpensa service, according to OAG.
  • SalamAir was due to launch four times weekly Muscat-Chittagong service, effective 07-Oct-2019. This marks the airline’s second destination in Bangladesh after Dhaka and its sixth destination in the Indian Subcontinent.
  • Jazeera Airways plans to launch twice weekly Kuwait-Osh service from 25-Oct-2019. The carrier will be the sole operator on the route, according to OAG.
  • FlyEgypt plans to launch four times weekly Cairo-Yanbu service, effective 18-Nov-2019. The carrier plans to operate the route with Boeing 737-800 equipment.
  • Transavia launched three times weekly Amsterdam-Amman service on 01-Oct-2019. Royal Jordanian also operates year round on the route, according to OAG.
  • Azur Air plans to launch twice weekly Moscow Vnukovo-Abu Dhabi service from 07-Nov-2019, operating with Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The carrier also operates Moscow-Dubai service, according to OAG.
  • Iran Air plans to resume twice weekly Tabriz-Baku service from 28-Oct-2019, operating with ATR 72 aircraft. The carrier suspended the service at the end of Sep-2019.
  • Saudia Cargo plans to commence twice weekly Liège service. The carrier’s European freighter network also includes Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Maastricht, Milan and Zaragoza, according to OAG.
  • Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plans to increase Islamabad-Abu Dhabi frequency from five times weekly to daily from 30-Oct-2019, a route also currently served by Etihad Airways and airblue.