Shifting Sands – an update on latest travel 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. Recent activities mean their is even more focus on the region impacting short-term travel to, from and within the area.

Our regular round-up delivers some of the latest key aviation and travel news stories from across the region.

Airlines temporarily suspend Iraqi flights after US air strike

Airlines are quickly modifying their schedules into Iraq after the launch of a US air strike near Baghdad International Airport on 03-Jan-2020. Among them, Royal Jordanian has suspended operations to Baghdad (although its Basra, Erbil, Najaf and Sulaymaniyah services are currently continuing), Gulf Air to Baghdad and Najaf, and Kuwait Airways to Najaf.

Emirates reports ‘positive outlook’ for 2020 after ‘year of recalibration’ in 2019

Emirates Airline reported a “positive outlook” for 2020 and the carrier will enter the new year “with a continued focus on strengthening its business across operational, commercial and customer experience metrics”. President Tim Clark said 2019 “was a year of recalibration in terms of our fleet and network plans, when it became clear that the A380 programme will cease”. Sir Tim added: “Emirates’ dynamic approach to capacity deployment – during the southern runway renovation at Dubai International, as well as in response to the capricious forces of politics and socio-economics throughout the year – demonstrated our agility and yielded results”. He also said: “In 2020, we’ll continue to leverage our partnerships to provide even more connectivity and value for our customers”. According to an internal memo to staff by chairman and CEO Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Sir Tim intends to retire at the end of Jun-2020, but continue as an advisor to the company. He originally joined the airline as part of its founding team in 1985 and became president in 2003.

Saudia Cargo and Saudi Customs sign partnership agreement for Riyadh airport

Saudia Cargo signed a memorandum of understanding and cooperation with Saudi Customs to improve cargo services and the efficiency of operations at Riyadh King Khaled International Airport. During the first phase, Saudia Cargo will take over operational services at Riyadh Airport customs, including storage and handling. Clearance and customs processes will be expedited through the ‘Fasah System’ and cargo capacity will be maximised. The agreement sets new tariffs of SAR0.10 (USD0.03) per kg for handling and SAR0.15 (USD0.04) per kg per day for storage.

Emirates partners with Tikram for premium passenger fast track in Amman

Emirates Airline signed an agreement with Tikram to offer complimentary fast track services for first class and business class passengers and Skywards Platinum and Gold members at Amman Queen Alia International airport from 01-Jan-2020. Services include immigration and security fast track on departure and immigration fast track on arrival. The services are expected to benefit almost 300 passengers per day. Tikram for Airport Services is the exclusive meet and greet service provider at Amman’s airport.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 06-Jan-2020)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)

News Briefs

  • Emirates Airline has relaunched My Emirates Pass, offering special benefits and discounts to over 500 locations across the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The pass programme is effective from 01-Jan-2020 to 31-Mar-2020 and turns an Emirates boarding pass into an exclusive membership card allowing customers to avail special benefits and discounts at supporting retail outlets and leisure destinations across the UAE.
  • Etihad Airways and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines expanded their codeshare partnership. The expanded agreement covers the UAE carrier’s services from Abu Dhabi to Hyderabad and Kolkata.
  • Dubai Duty Free reported total sales increased +0.7% year-on-year to a record AED7.41 billion (USD2.02 billion) in 2019. Growth was mainly driven by perfumes, liquor, cosmetics, tobacco and electronics, which together contributed AED4.46 billion (USD1.21 billion) in sales. In total, Dubai Duty Free completed 24.28 million sales transactions, an average of 66,500 per day with 64.58 million units of merchandise sold during the year.
  • WHSmith’s franchisee That Al Salasil will operate two convenience, tobacco and news outlets in the arrivals and departures areas of the new passenger terminal at Bahrain International Airport under a five year agreement with Bahrain Airports Company.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 06-Jan-2020)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)

Aircraft News

  • Etihad Airways plans to replace Boeing 777-300ER with 787-10 on daily Abu Dhabi-Amsterdam service from 29-Mar-2020 to 11-Apr-2020. The airline operates seven 787-10s with 23 on order, according to the CAPA Fleet Database.
  • Kish Air intends to lease three Embraer aircraft, with crew, from an Asian lessor, according to its CEO Farzaneh Sharafbafi. Kish Air owns 12 aircraft, of which two are undergoing major maintenance and are expected to return to service in the near future.
  • Saudia received a third Boeing 787-10 in Jeddah on 25-Dec-2019. The airline has another five 787-10s on order.
  • Qatar Airways plans to replace Boeing 777-200LR with A350-1000 on daily Doha-Los Angeles service from 01-May-2020. The airline has 14 A350-1000s in service with 28 on order, according to the CAPA Fleet Database.
  • Air India plans to replace Boeing 777-300ER with 787-8 on four times weekly Mumbai-Jeddah service, effective 29-Mar-2020, reports Routes Online.

FLEET SNAPSHOT: Middle East’s Largest Airlines (as at 06-Jan-2020)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG

Route Update

  • Etihad Airways plans to operate five times weekly Abu Dhabi-Alexandria and Abu Dhabi-Salalah services with A320 equipment from 25-Jun-2020 to 15-Sep-2020. The airline increased frequency from four to five times weekly and extended the operational period by three weeks for both services in response to the performance of the seasonal operations in 2019.
  • flynas plans to commence three times weekly Riyadh-Tirana service on 19-May-2020, according Albania’s Civil Aviation Authority.
  • IranAir has added new twice weekly Asaloyeh-Doha (using ATR 72 from 31-Dec-2019), Bandar Abbas-Doha (using ATR 72 from 31-Dec-2019) and Gheshm-Dubai (using A320 from 01-Jan-2020) services.
  • Venezuela’s Conviasa plans to launch weekly Caracas-Damascus service effective 09-Mar-2020.
  • Fly Jordan operated a charter service from Jordan to Cairo Sphinx International Airport, marking the first international operation at the airport.
  • FLYPERSIA launched Isfahan-Kish service. The carrier operates the route with Boeing 737 equipment.
  • Royal Jordanian plans to operate three times weekly Amman-Antalya service with A319 equipment from 23-May-2020 to 19-Sep-2020. The airline also operates Amman-Istanbul service, according to OAG.
  • Turkish Airlines plans to suspend Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen-Riyadh service, effective 23-Apr-2020 to 17-May-2020, according to Routes Online. The airline plans to resume daily service on the route on 18-May-2020.
  • Taban Air launched twice weekly Isfahan-Muscat service, effective 04-Jan-2020.
  • SunExpress plans to commence Antalya-Kuwait (weekly, effective 13-Feb-2020 to 14-May-2020); Trabzon-Dammam (weekly, effective 06-Feb-2020 to 26-Mar-2020); Trabzon-Kuwait (weekly, effective 13-Feb-2020 to 23-Apr-2020); and Trabzon-Tehran (weekly, effective 02-Jan-2020 to 26-Mar-2020).
  • SpiceJet reportedly plans to commence Ahmedabad-Jeddah service on 20-Feb-2020. The LCC will be the sole scheduled operator on the route, according to OAG.