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.

IATA: Middle East traffic growth in Nov-2019 was driven by Europe and Asia connections

IATA, via its Air Passenger Monthly Analysis for Nov-2019, reported Middle Eastern airlines recorded a 7.4% increase in international  passenger traffic in Nov-2019, up from 5.6% in Oct-2019. This was significantly above the performance for the year-to-date, of 2.2%. Capacity was unchanged from Nov-2018. leading to a 5ppt jump in passenger load factor. The growth in the Middle East driven by results for the large markets to/from Europe and Asia, where RPKs have increased by 9%-10% year-on-year in Oct-2019 (latest available).

Jazeera Airways launches new fare categories and services for 2020

Jazeera Airways launched three new fare categories and services for 2020. These are Economy Class Light, where passengers are permitted a carry on and a small bag; Economy Class Value, where passengers are permitted an additional 20kgs in checked baggage allowance; and Economy Class Extra, where passengers are permitted 30kgs in checked baggage allowance, priority check in and the ability to choose preferred seats in rows four to 10. Passengers in all three fare categories may also add extra services including additional baggage, access to the Jazeera Business Lounge and a meal from Jazeera Café. The carrier has also launched a new Priority Service that can be pre-purchased online, providing passengers with access to priority check in, baggage and boarding. Jazeera Airways CEO Rohit Ramachandran said the new fare categories and services will offer passengers “great flexibility” in the way they travel with the option to “add on the service that best suits their needs”.

OYO: UAE five year multiple entry visa is ‘game changer’ for tourism sector

OYO Hotels & Homes UAE country head Pranav Mehta stated the UAE’s new five year multiple entry visa is a “game changer” for the country’s tourist sector that will result in a “steep increase in tourist arrivals from across the globe”. Mr Mehta said OYO UAE has “seen a rise in numbers with regard to business travellers, particularly from India and China due to the growing trade relationship between UAE and these two Asian nations”. Mr Mehta added OYO is also experiencing “a growth in numbers from other GCC countries, Africa, Europe, UK and the US”.

Nordic visitors to GCC are expected to generate USD810 million to the region by 2024

Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland visitor arrivals to the GCC are expected to generate USD810 million in travel and tourism revenue by 2024, according to research undertaken by Colliers International on behalf of Reed Travel Exhibitions. The UAE is expected to receive the highest growth, with total tourism spend from Nordic visitors projected to reach USD718 million by 2024, up 36% year-on-year. Saudi Arabia is expected to receive the second highest increase in Nordic tourism spend with an estimated USD86.7 million, followed by Bahrain with USD53 million.

Afghanistan exports USD130 million in goods under ‘AirCorridor’ programme in 2019

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Industry and Commerce reported over 5,000 tonnes of goods valued at USD130 million was transported on 855 flights in 2019 under the government’s ‘AirCorridor’ programme. Since the inauguration of the ‘AirCorridor’ programme in mid-2017, Afghanistan has exported 11,087 tonnes of goods valued at USD238 million on 1111 flights. The top markets within the programme in 2019 by weight of goods transported were India, China, European Union, United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 13-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

  • Millennium Resort Salalah has partnered with flydubai to enhance guest experience and boost tourism in the region. Upon their stay at Millennium Resort Salalah, guests and airline staff will be provided with complimentary airport transfers and 24 hour check in/check out among other benefits.
  • Oman Air has commenced codesharing on Air Italy’s Milan-New York and Milan-Miami services. Additional US destinations are expected to be announced in the coming months in time for summer 2020.
  • UAE’s Cabinet has approved start-up Air Arabia Abu Dhabi as a national carrier of the UAE. The status was granted “in order to enhance civil aviation in the country and to allow the aviation sector to keep pace with future development plans and directions”.
  • Bahrain’s Ministry of Finance and National Economy reported the country’s transport and communication sector grew an estimated +6.4% year-on-year in 3Q2019, supported by the continued expansion of Gulf Air.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 13-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

  • Emirates Airline plans to operate one of twice daily Dubai-Glasgow frequency year round with A380 equipment, effective Mar-2020. Boeing 777 equipment will continue to operate the second frequency.
  • Qatar Airways plans to utilise larger Boeing 777-300ER equipment rather than 777-200LR on its Doha-Malaga route on selected dates. These comprise 26-Jul-2020 to 04-Aug-2020 and 02-Sep-2020 to 14-Sep-2020.
  • The continued grounding of the Boeing 737MAX continues to impact the schedules of Oman Air. The airline has cancelled 753 frequencies through the month of Jan-2020.

MARKET SNAPSHOT: Middle East capacity by business model (as at 13-Jan-2020)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG

Route Update

  • Fly Baghdad launched weekly Najaf-Cairo service, effective 11-Jan-2020. The airline’s chairman Beshir Al-Shabny said the carrier plans to increase the frequency to twice weekly, effective Feb-2020.
  • Iran Air launched Tehran-Gachsaran service, effective 10-Jan-2020. The carrier operates the route with ATR 72 equipment.
  • Saudia confirmed plans to resume summer 2020 services on Riyadh-Vienna (twice weekly, effective 11-Jun-2020, with A320 equipment) and Jeddah-Malaga-Casablanca (twice weekly, effective 09-Jun-2020, with Boeing 787-9 equipment).
  • Qatar Airways plans to launch three times weekly Doha-Dubrovnik service, effective 18-May-2020. The carrier plans to increase the frequency to five times weekly, operating between 15-Jun-2020 and 04-Oct-2020.
  • flydubai plans to resume three times weekly Dubai-Batumi service, operating between 27-May-2020 and 29-Aug-2020. The carrier plans to increase the frequency to five times weekly, effective 03-Jul-2020.
  • IndiGo reportedly plans to resume daily Kochi-Muscat service, effective 16-Feb-2020. According to OAG, IndiGo suspended the service from Mar-2019.
  • Qatar Airways Cargo is due to commence twice weekly Doha-Osaka Kansai-Hong Kong service with Boeing 777F on 14-Jan-2020. As previously reported, Qatar Airways also plans to commence Doha-Osaka passenger service in Apr-2020.
  • Regent Airways plans to increase Chittagong-Doha frequency from four to six times weekly from Mar-2020. Biman Bangladesh Airlines and US-Bangla Airlines also operate the route, according to OAG.