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.


Dubai launches ‘World Logistics Passport’ programme to promote trade

Dubai’s Government launched the ‘World Logistics Passport’ initiative, designed to link Customs World, DP World and Emirates Group to enhance connectivity through Dubai and boost trade. The programme is intended to overcome non-tariff trade barriers, such as logistics inefficiency, and involves sharing expertise and developing processes between partner countries. The programme is designed as a points loyalty scheme to incentivise companies and traders to use Dubai’s logistics facilities. The initiative commenced as a pilot project in Jul-2019 and has since increased trade participants by 10%. The Dubai Government noted that many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have smaller market shares for key export products in each other’s markets compared to their shares in developed countries, indicating the potential for growth.


Oman Air may launch its first US operations in late 2021 or early 2022

Oman Aviation Group CEO Mustafa Al Hinai said Oman Air may commence operations to the US in late 2021 or 2022 in an interview with Business Insider. Mr Al Hinai commented: “We need to really understand the market first, it’s very complex… I think we need to invest into this market by understanding the nature of travellers”. Expansion to the US would be “phase two” for the carrier, according to Mr Al Hinai, following its focus on serving the GCC, China, Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris, Russia and Zurich. Oman Air currently serves the US through a codeshare agreement with Air Italy.


Experience Hub and Etihad Holidays sign MoU to promote Abu Dhabi as leading global destination

Experience Hub and Etihad Holidays signed an MoU to promote Abu Dhabi as a destination for leisure and cultural experiences. The two organisations will collaborate to increase awareness and visitation to Abu Dhabi as well as improve the overall guest booking experience and drive longer lengths of stay. The agreement also aims to increase layover and stopovers in the capital, with particular emphasis on key markets including the GCC, Europe, India and China. The MoU includes collaborative tactics such as trade events and annual familiarisation trips to highlight Abu Dhabi’s world class leisure and cultural offerings. Etihad Holidays and Experience Hub will also concurrently bundle and sell each other’s products.


Dubai visitor arrivals up +5.1% in 2019, tourism sector contributes 11.5% to GDP

The Government of Dubai reported a record 16.73 million international visitor arrivals in 2019, up 5.1% year-on-year, surpassing the global tourism growth forecast of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation by over 1%. Dubai’s tourism sector contributed 11.5% in GDP value in 2019 and was ranked the third largest city in capturing direct international tourism spending with a total of USD27.9 billion.


Emirates Airline has carried 6.7m passengers on Dubai-Bahrain service since its Jan-2000 launch

Emirates Airline announced it has carried more than 6.7 million passengers on Dubai-Bahrain service since its launch on 25-Jan-2000. Emirates Airline SVP commercial operations for Gulf, Middle East and Central Asia Adil Al Ghaith said Bahrain is a “significant market” in the region and going forward, the carrier aims to continue growing its operations, sustaining a “buoyant performance” and “building a footprint of excellence in this market”.


CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 27-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

  • Plaza Premium Group has opened a 1,260 square metre Plaza Premium Lounge at Dubai International airport’s Terminal 3 Concourse A. The lounge has a 300 person capacity.
  • Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority has boosted daily overflight revenues to around USD100,000 following the Ukraine International Airlines incident in Iran as operators have diverted their flights away from Iran and over Afghanistan.
  • Saudia has expanded its codeshare partnership with Air France effective 20-Jan-2020. Itr now also covers the European carriers’ Paris CDG-Birmingham, Paris CDG-Gothenburg, Paris CDG-Newcastle and Paris CDG-Oslo routes.
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has resumed overflights over Iranian and Iraqi airspace on the recommendation of risk analysis from Dutch intelligence services, the NCTV counter-terrorism unit, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 27-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

  • Kuwait Airways has received one new A320-200neo (9K-AKM, MSN 9119) as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The airline now operates three A320neos with 12 to be delivered.
  • Etihad Airways is adjusting the operational aircraft on some of its European routes in summer 2020. This includes Abu Dhabi-Amsterdam where its Boeing 777-300ER will be substituted by 787-10s between 29-Mar-2020 and 11-Apr-2020 and 787-9s  between 01-May-2020 and 15-Jun-2020.
  • Gulf Air has operated its last A330-200 service on a scheduled basis. The final flight was on the operated Bahrain-Dhaka route on 19/20-Jan-2020.
  • flynas is scheduled to receive one A320-200neo (HZ-NS26, MSN 9225) in Feb-2020, as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database.
  • flydubai said it is “looking at short to medium term leasing options to add more capacity for the coming few months”. This follows Boeing’s projection that the 737 MAX will remain grounded until mid-2020.

MARKET SNAPSHOT: Middle East capacity by departure seat class (as at 27-Jan-2020)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG


Route Update

  • Saudia plans to reduce Jeddah-Guangzhou frequency from three times to twice weekly, effective 21-Jun-2020 to 05-Sep-2020, reports Routes Online. Guangzhou is the airline’s only destination in China, according to OAG.
  • Air India plans to commence three times weekly Mumbai-Doha service on 21-Feb-2020. The airline will operate the service with Boeing 787-8 equipment. Qatar Airways, IndiGo and Air India Express also operate the route, according to OAG.
  • Qatar Airways plans to increase Doha-Oslo frequency to twice daily, effective Mar-2020. The carrier plans to operate the route with a combination of Boeing 787-8 and A350 equipment.