Shifting Sands – an update on latest travel developments across the Middle East

18 February, 2020

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.

Jazeera Airways to continue expanding in Middle East, Europe and Asia

Jazeera Airways announced it plans to launch new services from Kuwait to Sharjah, Chittagong, Dhaka, Qassim and Hail. The carrier is also looking into opportunities to continue its expansion in the European market within the 6.5 hour flight radius. Jazeera Airways chairman Marwan Boodai stated: "We look forward to continue our expansion in the coming years with a focus in our home region, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. The expansion will be supported with a growing fleet and a customer centric offering in which our customers choose to fly the way they prefer". Jazeera Airways reported (11-Feb-2020) net profit of KWD14.9 million (USD4.5 million) in 2019, up 124.1% year-on-year. The carrier's operating revenue grew 25.9% to KWD103.7 million (USD31.5 million).

Etihad Airways partners with Braathens IT to launch subscription based travel solution

Etihad Airways partnered with Braathens IT to develop TravelPass, a subscription based travel solution aimed at corporate and frequent travellers. Customers can purchase a TravelPass for a set number of trips or a particular travel period instead of purchasing flights one by one. Etihad Aviation Group CCO Robin Kamark said TravelPass will simplify "the travel process to just a few clicks" by offering guests a "seamless transaction through a platform" that holds all their "details in one place", granting them the flexibility to make changes to bookings without fees and the choice to book now and pay later.

Oman Air’s fuel saving techniques reduced its annual usage by 7.8 million kg in 2019

Oman Air reported it delivered on its commitment to environmental responsibility, saving 7.8 million kilograms of jet fuel in 2019, equivalent to 24.6 million kilograms of emissions. These reductions were achieved through implementing fuel saving initiatives and using the latest aircraft technology.

Emirates SkyCargo launches bonded trucking corridors to Riyadh

Emirates SkyCargo introduced two bonded trucking corridors connecting Dammam and Madinah with Riyadh, operating up to five times weekly based on demand. The trucking service is operated by Eastern Allied Transport, an affiliate of Allied Transport Company, which operates Emirates SkyCargo's fleet of 49 trucks operating between Dubai International Airport and Dubai World Central. Emirates SkyCargo will offer same day delivery in Riyadh for cargo trucked from Dammam and Madinah. The carrier offers import capacity to Riyadh and will evaluate export opportunities based on demand.

Etihad Holidays signs agreement with Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Al Hilal Bank

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Al Hilal Bank signed an agreement with Etihad Holidays to provide customers of both banks with a payment plan when booking an Etihad Holiday. Etihad Airways SVP destination and leisure management Hareb Almuhairy said the agreement enables the carrier to offer ADCB and Al Hilal Bank customers "convenient payment solutions" and an "easy payment plan", which will allow "more people to enjoy" Etihad Holidays' "unique range of holidays" and travel experiences.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East Domestic Seats (as at 17-Feb-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

  • Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport has launched a free transport service for passengers between terminal 1 and the southern terminal. The transportation service will be available for two months until the new terminal is fully operational.
  • Oman Air and Kenya Airways expanded their codeshare network in late Jan-2020 to include Oman Air's Muscat-Delhi and Muscat-Hyderabad services. Kenya Airways has 23 codeshare partners and Oman Air has 17, according to OAG.
  • Al Rajhi Aviation has renewed its exclusive partnership with Sabre to support its plans to expand regionally and explore opportunities in online travel. Al Rajhi Aviation will have continued access to Sabre Red 360, allowing it to harness data and deliver content to travellers.
  • Saudi Arabia international visitor arrivals are projected to increase 38% to 21.3 million by 2024, according to research undertaken by Colliers International on behalf of Arabian Travel Market.
  • Middle East Airlines has reversed a previous decision to accept payment in only US dollars following a public backlash.
  • HMSHost International opened (13-Feb-2020) a new 170sqm 'Food Village' food court at Dubai International Airport Terminal 3 concourse C. The food court is described as offering a combination of “franchise brands with home grown heroes”.
  • Armenia's Civil Aviation Committee has confirmed plans to sign an agreement with Syria on establishing direct air communication in 2020.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: Middle East International Seats (as at 17-Feb-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

  • Saudia has delayed planned Boeing 787-10 entry on Jeddah-Paris CDG service to 01-Apr-2020, according to Routes Online. The 787-10 will replace 787-9 equipment.
  • Qatar Airways plans aircraft changes for the Doha-Mahe Island service in summer 2020, reports Routes Online. Boeing 777-200LR aircraft will operate daily, effective 01-May-2020, replacing A330-200 equipment, except during the following dates when 777-300ER will operate between 07-Jul-2020 and 15-Jul-2020; 28-Jul-2020 and 05-Aug-2020; 08-Sep-2020 and 23-Sep-2020; 02-Oct-2020 and 09-Oct-2020; and 13-Oct-2020 and 21-Oct-2020.
  • Jazeera Airways received one A320-200neo (9K-CBE, MSN 9528) as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database. The aircraft is owned and managed by ALAFCO. The airline now operates five A320neos.
  • Qatar Airways is scheduled to receive one A350-1000 aircraft (A7-ANO, MSN 368) in Apr-2020, as recorded by the CAPA Fleet Database.

CAPACITY SNAPSHOT: The largest LCCs in the Middle East (as at 17-Feb-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)

Route Update

  • Mahan Air plans to launch daily Tehran Imam Khomeini-Phuket service, operating between 22-Mar-2020 and 04-Apr-2020. The carrier plans to operate the route with A340-300 equipment.
  • Air India plans to increase Delhi-Doha frequency from four to six times weekly from 30-Mar-2020, according to the CAPA Route Changes Database. Qatar Airways and IndiGo also operate the route, according to OAG schedules.
  • Etihad Airways plans to increase Abu Dhabi-Thiruvananthapuram from daily to twice daily for May-2020. The carrier also plans to increase Abu Dhabi-Chennai from twice to three times daily during this period.
  • SaudiGulf Airlines plans to launch six times weekly Riyadh-Cairo service, effective 04-Mar-2020. The carrier plans to operate the route with A320 equipment.
  • Iran Air resumed Tehran-Stockholm service, effective 15-Feb-2020. The carrier plans to resume Tehran-Gothenburg service on 18-Feb-2020.
  • Kuwait Airways plans to resume Kuwait-Athens (three times weekly, operating between 07-Jul-2020 and 08-Sep-2020); Kuwait-Luxor (three times weekly, effective 07-Jul-2020); Kuwait-Sarajevo (three times weekly, operating between 09-Jun-2020 and 12-Sep-2020); and Kuwait-Shiraz (four times weekly, effective 07-Jul-2020).
  • IndiGo commenced daily Cochin-Muscat, daily Kolkata-Dubai International and daily Hyderabad-Dammam services on 16-Feb-2020.
  • Qatar Airways plans to increase Doha-Miami frequency from five to seven times weekly, effective 01-Jun-2020, according to a 11-Feb-2020 GDS display. The carrier plans to operate the route with A350-900 equipment.
  • Air India Express plans to commence four times weekly Tiruchirappalli-Abu Dhabi service on 30-Mar-2020. The LCC will be the sole scheduled operator on the route, according to OAG.
  • US-Bangla Airlines was due to increase Chittagong-Muscat frequency from four to six times weekly from 17-Feb-2020. Biman Bangladesh Airlines, SalamAir and Regent Airways also operate the route.