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.

Etihad Airways relaunches Etihad Guest programme

Etihad Airways relaunched its Etihad Guest programme. Members will soon be able to pay with Etihad Guest Miles for more travel ancillaries, such as extra baggage and insurance, through the booking engine. Upgrades and related services, such as excess baggage and taxes, will also be available with miles on Etihad Guest Miles will no longer expire and will remain valid as long as one eligible transaction is made every 18 months. Discounts for purchasing WiFi and seat selection will also be available to members.

Emirates adds Airport Maps feature to app

Emirates has launched an Airport Maps feature on its app, which assists passengers in navigating the airport. The new feature maps out Emirates’ hub at Dubai International airport’s terminal 3 and other major airports in the airline’s network including London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Hong Kong International airports.

National Aviation Services reports revenue growth in 3Q2019 after ‘difficult start’ to 2019

National Aviation Services (NAS) recorded an +8.5% year-on-year increase in revenue in 3Q2019, following a “difficult start” to 2019. Performance in 1H2019 was impacted by “unforeseen regulatory and operational expenses” in Kuwait, price reduction in Côte d’Ivoire and a temporary reduction of air services in Afghanistan. Operations in Morocco, Mozambique and Tanzania remain in the launch phase and are hindering group performance. Operations in Egypt, Jordan and Uganda continue to outperform. NAS expects improvement in results to continue into 4Q2019 and 2020.

Air Partner opens new office in Dubai

Air Partner announced the opening of its new Dubai office. The Dubai office is the fourth Air Partner office to be opened in the last 18 months, following openings in Los Angeles in Jun-2018 and Houston and Singapore in early 2019. Air Partner CEO Mark Briffa stated the opening of the new Dubai office is in line with the company’s strategy to grow its global footprint and expand beyond the reach of its established markets.

Air Arabia to ‘cautiously continue with growth’ despite geopolitical and economic challenges

Air Arabia chairman Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohamed Al Thani stated Air Arabia plans to “cautiously continue with its growth plans and expanding its geographic reach” despite “unsettling geopolitical escalations and pressing economic challenges impacting the aviation industry in the MENA region”. The airline reported a net profit of AED471 million (USD128.2 million) in 3Q2019, up 57% year-on-year. Turnover increased 12% to AED1438 million (USD391.5 million). Mr Al Thani stated the carrier’s record performance in 3Q2019 was “driven by higher customer demand, robust growth strategy and the cost control measures adopted by the management team”.

Mubadala merges MRO and Capital businesses to launch Sanad

Mubadala merged its MRO and Capital businesses to launch Sanad, a new company designed to foster Abu Dhabi’s long term growth in the global aerospace and industrial services sectors. Sanad will integrate Sanad Aerotech, the specialist aircraft engine MRO business; Sanad Powertech, the energy and industrial MRO service provider and Sanad Capital, a dedicated leasing partner for the global aerospace industry. Mubadala Aerospace head Badr Al-Olama stated by “providing holistic services in aviation and industrial MRO, engine financing and leasing, Sanad will play a key role in promoting Abu Dhabi as a global aerospace hub”.

News Briefs

  • Jet Aviation has announced its refurbished 600sqm facility at Riyadh King Khaled International airport is scheduled to open by the end of 1Q2020. The facility will be equipped to handle all types of aircraft.
  • Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) Head Igor Artemyev said Fraport and Qatar Investment Authority plans to acquire Saint Petersburg Pulkovo Airport’s cargo terminal. Mr Artemtyev said: “Today the deal was approved”.
  • Emirates Airline signed an agreement Deezer for an inflight music streaming service, effective 13-Nov-2019.
  • National Aviation Services (NAS) has launched a 144 square metre Pearl Lounge at Kabul Hamid Karzai International airport.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 18-Nov-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

  • GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) signed a lease agreement with SalamAir for two A321neo aircraft. The aircraft are powered by CFM LEAP engines.
  • Jazeera Airways is scheduled to receive one A320-200neo (9K-CBC, MSN 9149) on 01-Dec-2019, as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The aircraft is owned and managed by Avolon.
  • Saudia plans to operate A330 on Jeddah-Geneva route on select dates in Dec-2019 and Jan-2020, replacing A320 equipment, according to Routes Online. The carrier will operate the route with A330 equipment on 20-Dec-2019, 22-Dec-2019, 24-Dec-2019, 19-Jan-2020 and 28-Jan-2020.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 18-Nov-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 launch three times weekly Doha-Gaborone service, effective 15-Dec-2019. The carrier plans to operate the route with A350-900 equipment.
  • SmartWings reportedly plans to suspend daily Prague-Dubai service from 06-Jan-2020, as part of schedule adjustments reflecting the delays in Boeing 737 MAX deliveries. The market is also operated by Emirates and flydubai, according to OAG.
  • Oman’s Public Authority of Civil Aviation (PACA) granted approval to Qeshm Air to operate seven weekly frequencies from Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad and Ahvaz to Sohar.
  • Etihad Airways announced plans to increase Abu Dhabi-Riyadh frequency from three to four times daily, effective 08-Dec-2019, operating with A320 equipment.
  • Neos plans to commence weekly Verona-Rome Fiumicino-Salalah service, effective 22-Dec-2019 to 29-Mar-2020. The airline will operate the service with Boeing 767 equipment.
  • flyadeal plans to launch daily Riyadh-Hail, Riyadh-Yanbu, Dammam-Yanbu and Dammam-Taif, effective 01-Dec-2019.
  • Uzbekistan’s Civil Aviation Agency permitted Zagros Airlines to operate Tehran-Tashkent service. Iran Air operated the service in 2016, according to OAG.