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.

  • ACI reveals further contraction in Middle East airport traffic in Apr-2018
  • SalamAir launches ‘More on Air’ loyalty programme with ‘simply fly, redeem and repeat’ offering
  • Emirates brings its first A380 flight to Pakistan
  • Kam Air to resume Kabul-Dubai service after four year ban lifted
  • US Department of Treasury unlikely to grant new aircraft export licences to Iran
  • Dubai Duty Free and Ctrip sign partnership to promote Dubai Duty Free to Chinese passengers
  • ROUTE UPDATE: latest route launches and announcements
  • DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East Annual LCC Penetration (2008 – 2018)

ACI reveals further contraction in Middle East airport traffic in Apr-2018
Latest statistics from airport body ACI show that passenger volumes in the Middle East recorded an overall decline in Apr-2018 as traffic softened at the larger hubs. Traffic at Dubai International (DXB) was virtually flat compared to last year, down -0.1%. The diplomatic crisis in Qatar continued to negatively impact Doha (DOH) at -18.2%. On the other hand, strong growth continued to be observed at Kuwait (KWI) +19.3% and Muscat (MCT) +9.7%.


SalamAir launches ‘More on Air’ loyalty programme with ‘simply fly, redeem and repeat’ offering
Oman’s SalamAir has launched a frequent flyer programme named ‘More on Air’. There are no points to count or complex algorithms for redemption, but instead a simple and easy way to earn a free ticket. Passengers who have flown ten sectors with SalamAir within one calendar year may redeem their proof of purchases for a one way travel voucher to any of the airline’s destinations. The voucher is valid for 12 months and does not include fuel charges, government or airport taxes. “We listen to our guests and work to give them more of what they want,” says Captain Mohamed Ahmed, CEO of SalamAir. “Simply fly, redeem and repeat.” Today, the SalamAir network consists of 12 destinations including Muscat, Salalah, Suhar, Dubai, Doha, Jeddah, Karachi, Multan, Sialkot, Shiraz, as well as newly introduced Tbilisi and Baku.


Emirates brings its first A380 flight to Pakistan
Emirates Airline operated a one off Dubai – Islamabad service with A380 equipment on 08-Jul-2018, marking the first A380 operation to Pakistan. The service demonstrated the ability of Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport to handle A380s. Emirates divisional SVP commercial operations centre Majid Al Mualla said: “We are very keen to now launch a scheduled A380 service to Pakistan and will continue to work with authorities to make these plans a reality”.


Kam Air to resume Kabul-Dubai service after four year ban lifted
The Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA) has stated local carrier Kam Air plans to resume Kabul – Dubai flights, following the removal of a four year ban on operations by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). The ACAA and GCAA met in Jun-2018 to resolve issues related to the ban. ACAA says resumption of the service by Kam Air “will enhance the competition in the market”. GCAA says the effective policies and procedures of ACAA to measure the airline’s services, standards and the implementation of the safety standards on them have changed the views of the foreign countries on Afghanistan airlines.


US Department of Treasury unlikely to grant new aircraft export licences to Iran
The US Department of Treasury Assistant Secretary of Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea has reportedly stated the US is unlikely to approve new licences to export commercial aircraft to Iran. Regional turboprop manufacturer ATR has confirmed it has applied for a new licence, to deliver the remaining 12 of a 20 aircraft order with Iran Air. Airbus has also reportedly approached the US Department of Treasury for a licence. The European manufacturer has 95 aircraft remaining from a 100 aircraft order placed by Iran Air in Dec-2016.


Dubai Duty Free and Ctrip sign partnership to promote Dubai Duty Free to Chinese passengers
Dubai Duty Free has signed a partnership with Ctrip to promote Dubai Duty Free to Ctrip’s customers travelling to Dubai from China. The agreement reflects the importance of Chinese travellers to Dubai Duty Free, accounting for nearly 15% of sales while comprising approximately 4% of Dubai International Airport’s passenger traffic. The partnership will see customers of C-Trip enjoy a 5% discount (on a wide range of items and terms and conditions apply) when shopping at Dubai Duty Free with this particular promotion running until the end of 2018. Dubai Duty Free plans “a deeper integration” between its marketing plans and C-Trip’s reach with the Chinese customers “to better service this important market over the next three years,” it explains.


Route Updates

  • Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways are among the carriers reported to be interested in commencing flights to Langkawi, according to Langkawi Development Authority CEO Azizan Noordin. Mr Azizan has said the proposed services could commence in 2019 and stated: “Beside tourists from their respective countries of origin, these airlines would also be linking tourists from Europe and other parts of the world to Langkawi”.
  • flydubai has reportedly closed reservations for its six times weekly Dubai-Sylhet service with effect from 07-Sep-2018. Biman Bangladesh Airlines will be the sole scheduled operator on the route, according to OAG.
  • Kuwait Airways plans to commence three times weekly Kuwait -Milan Malpensa service with A330-200 equipment on 29-Oct-2018. The airline also operates Kuwait – Rome Fiumicino service, according to OAG.
  • Kenya Airways plans to suspend direct Jeddah service, effective 12-Sep-2018. The airline will continue to serve Jeddah through existing cooperation with partner carriers. The closure is “consistent with Kenya Airways’ strategy to improve its network efficiency and focus on the high yield corporate and premium leisure segments,” explains the carrier.
  • Luxair plans to launch weekly Luxembourg – Ras Al Khaimah service with Boeing 737-800 equipment, effective 23-Oct-2018. The launch will mark the carrier’s first service to the Middle East.
  • British Airways plans to decrease London Heathrow – Tehran frequency from five to four times weekly, effective 15-Jan-2019. Frequency will further decrease to three times weekly on 05-Feb-2019.
  • Nepal Airlines confirmed plans to increase Kathmandu – Doha frequency from three to seven times weekly and deploy A330 aircraft on the service, commencing 01-Aug-2018.

DATA SNAPSHOT: Middle East Annual LCC Penetration (2008 – 2018)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG