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.

This new weekly round-up will deliver some of the key aviation and travel news stories from across the Middle East region.

  • flydubai to take over Emirates flights into Zagreb for quieter winter months
  • Qatar Airways debuts its ‘QSuite’ offer on Bangalore and Mumbai routes
  • SaudiGulf launches mobile app with CellPoint Mobile
  • Wataniya Airways orders E195-E2s with staggered seat business class
  • Etihad in advanced discussions to sell its five A330Fs
  • SalamAir to acquire six A320neos to expand its network
  • ROUTE UPDATE: latest route launches and announcements
  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Monthly frequencies from Middle East to Asia Pacific (2012 – 2018)

flydubai to take over Emirates flights into Zagreb for quieter winter months
The increasing synergies between Emirates Airline and flydubai will see flights between Dubai and Zagreb in Croatia switch between the operators to better meet seasonal demand. The current Emirates route will instead be operated by flydubai using a Boeing 737MAX-8 from 02-Dec-2018 to 30-Mar-2019 after which flights will revert back to Emirates. The move will “ensure that capacity is deployed to best serve customer demand by maximising the frequency for passengers during the winter season,” say the airlines. During this period, flight FZ1793 will depart from Dubai at 10:00 and arrive in Zagreb at 13:15 local time. The return flight FZ1794 will depart from Zagreb at 14:30 and arrive in Dubai at 23:00.


Qatar Airways debuts its ‘QSuite’ offer on Bangalore and Mumbai routes
Qatar Airways has introduced its ‘Qsuite’ business class cabin on its routes linking Doha with Bangalore and Mumbai services. The airline operates Boeing 777-300ER aircraft featuring the ‘Qsuite’ product daily to each destination. The new ‘QSuite’ offer is currently available on select Qatar Airways’ Boeing 777-300ER, Airbus A350-900 and A350-1000 aircraft. The expansion to Mumbai and Bangalore follows the introduction of the product on flights to London, Paris, New York, Chicago, Houston, Shanghai and Canberra.


SaudiGulf launches mobile app with CellPoint Mobile
SaudiGulf Airlines has partnered with CellPoint Mobile to develop and launch the airline’s first mobile booking app, powered by CellPoint’s ‘Voyage’ booking engine. The app provides search, booking, seat selection and integrated payment options. The system supports Saudi Arabia’s SADAD national electronic payment method. The airline plans to add features to the app, including ancillary purchasing, chauffeur booking and integration with the airline’s frequent flyer programme. 53% of air travel bookings in Saudi Arabia are made on a mobile device. The app is available for Android and iOS devices.


Wataniya Airways orders E195-E2s with staggered seat business class
Kuwait’s Wataniya Airways has signed a firm order with Embraer for 10 E195-E2 aircraft and purchase rights for ten more aircraft. Deliveries will commence in 2020. Wataniya Airways will be the first E2 operator in the Middle East and the worldwide launch customer of Embraer’s staggered seat business class. The airline’s E195-E2s will be configured with 12 business class and 106 economy class seats. Wataniya Airways CEO Rakan Al-Tuwaijri said: “The E195-E2 will allow us to open non-served markets and increase frequencies”. Golden Falcon Aviation, the exclusive aircraft provider of Wataniya Airways, also confirmed  an order with Airbus for 25 A320neo family aircraft and confirms an earlier MoU announced at the 2017 Dubai Airshow.


Etihad in advanced discussions to sell its five A330Fs
Etihad Airways managing director cargo and logistics Abdulla Mohamed Shadid has said the airline is in advanced discussions with potential buyers for the sale of its five Airbus A330Fs, according to a local media report. He said: “[I] hope it will materialise soon and the aircraft will exit our fleet”. Mr Shadid said the carrier was able to match or exceed 2017 performance in 2018, despite offering reduced capacity. He stated: “It validates our decision to finish with the old aircraft, which did not have the right economics for us. We’ve cut bad capacity and redeployed towards good sectors”.


SalamAir to acquire six A320neos to expand its network
Oman’s SalamAir has signed an agreement to acquire six new A320neo aircraft, five of which will be leased from an undisclosed lessor. The first of the 180 seat aircraft is expected to be delivered in 4Q2018, followed by the five leased aircraft in 1Q2019. The carrier plans to increase frequency to popular destinations, including Multan, Salalah, Sialkot and Shiraz, and is considering new destinations in the Indian Subcontinent, the Middle East and North Africa, including Dhaka, Egypt, Iraq, Kathmandu, Kuwait and Riyadh. The airline currently operates three A320ceos.


Route Updates

  • SalamAir has received approval to operate a planned three times weekly Salalah – Abu Dhabi service, effective 04-Aug-2018. Oman’s Public Authority for Civil Aviation has also granted approval for the operation of services from Muscat to Kathmandu, Khartoum and Kuwait from Sep-2018.
  • Cham Wings Airlines has commenced a Damascus – Sharjah service with A320 equipment, the UAE airport confirmed via official social media channels.
  • Qatar Airways plans to increase Doha – Krabi frequency from four to seven times weekly, effective 26-Nov-2018, and increase Doha – Chiang Mai frequency from four to seven times weekly, effective 29-Nov-2018, according to the CAPA Route Changes Database.
  • Turkish Airlines launched a weekly Samsun – Kuwait service on 19-Jul-2018, according to the CAPA Route Changes Table. The service operates with Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
  • Emirates Airline plans to operate a one off Dubai – Accra service with A380 equipment on 02-Oct-2018, to mark the opening of terminal 3 at Accra Kotoka International Airport. It will mark the first scheduled A380 service to Ghana.

  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Monthly frequencies from Middle East to Asia Pacific (2012 – 2018)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG