Showing posts with label The Gulf. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Gulf. Show all posts

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Qatar's American dream

Full article in PDF format

In June, Qatar Airways will begin operating nonstop daily flights from its mega-hub in Doha to Atlanta, the capital of the US state of Georgia. The wide-body Boeing 777s that have been earmarked for the route will touch down in the home base of Delta Air Lines – an acrimonious rival that has spent the past year intensely lobbying Washington to block further expansion by Gulf carriers on its home turf.

Atlanta is the third US route launch for Qatar Airways in 2016, following the commencement of flights to Los Angeles and Boston. Frequencies on its New York service also rose to twice-daily in April. With the latest addition, Qatar Airways will fly 3,400 seats to ten cities in America each and every day...

Friday, 1 April 2016

Budapest bridgehead

Full article in PDF format

Emirates Airline is a step closer to launching its second nonstop passenger service from Europe to America, after officials from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Hungary expressed interest in Gulf-operated transatlantic flights out of Budapest. Although Dubai's flag-carrier focuses on sixth-freedom traffic – flights into and out of its home base – it has always been open to fifth-freedom links, which involve onward flights between foreign countries. Dubai-Milan-New York was launched in 2013, and Dubai-Budapest-New York will be the most likely prize from the Hungarian talks...

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Kuwait Airways turns a corner

Full article in PDF format

It was no great shock when Kuwait Airways announced last summer that its troubled privatisation programme has effectively been abandoned. The state-owned flag-carrier is still officially looking for equity buyers, though only through a watered-down proposal that will leave politicians firmly in the driving seat.

Taken in isolation, the decision to keep Kuwait Airways in the public sector might have been disastrous. The airline has performed miserably over the past two decades, steadily losing ground to a new breed of more efficient, better funded Gulf rivals. Parliamentary bickering over strategy and fleet renewal are largely to blame for its sclerotic performance – creating an opening for Dubai's Emirates Airline, Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways to funnel Kuwaiti passengers through their own hubs.

However, the move away from privatisation did not occur in a vacuum...

Friday, 1 January 2016

Winds of change at Saudia

Full article in PDF format

Discussions about Gulf aviation invariably focus on the so-called 'big three' carriers in the region: Dubai's Emirates Airline, Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways. Saudia, the flag-carrier of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, rarely gets a mention – despite deploying more aircraft than Etihad, and boasting a history that stretches back decades before the launch of the new breed of Gulf super-connectors.

Saudia's absence from the global limelight is partly down to its focus on domestic flying, with two-thirds of the airline's seating capacity deployed inside the kingdom. It is also a reflection of the conservative values of its government owner. The big three Gulf carriers, by contrast, have designed their businesses around intercontinental transfer traffic, forcing them to invest heavily in global marketing campaigns and high-profile sponsorship deals. Saudia neither wants nor needs to make as much noise...

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Metrojet disaster reverberates worldwide

Full article in PDF format

Whatever doubts remained about the crash of Metrojet Flight 9268 over the Sinai Peninsula were extinguished last month, when Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), told President Vladimir Putin in a televised meeting: "We can unequivocally say it was a terrorist act." A grim-faced Putin responded by pledging to "find and punish the perpetrators" of the atrocity, which killed 224 mostly Russian passengers and crew on 31 October.

Moscow had initially played down the possibility of a terrorism link, raising fears in the West that Putin might cover up the cause of the crash to deflect criticism of his military campaign in Syria. But as the body of evidence pointing to Islamic State (IS) involvement grew daily – comprising audio from the cockpit voice recorder, traces of explosives on the wreckage, intercepts of terrorist chatter, and claims of responsibility by IS – Russia shifted its narrative.

The Egyptian government now stands alone in denying evidence of an intentional act...

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Doha down under

Full article in PDF format

Qatar Airways will double the number of destinations it serves in Australia next year, adding flights to Sydney in March and Adelaide in May as it tries to narrow the advantage currently enjoyed by the UAE's flag-carriers on connecting flights between Australia and Europe.

The Doha-based airline was a relative latecomer to Australia when it entered the market in 2009, launching its inaugural service two years after Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways and 13 years after Dubai's Emirates Airline. As a consequence, its existing daily flights to Melbourne and Perth account for just 8% of seating capacity available between the Gulf and Australia...

Thursday, 1 October 2015

A case of self-interest

Full article in PDF format

The chief executives of American Airlines and Delta Air Lines met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in September, stepping up efforts to convince Washington that the fast-expanding Gulf carriers pose an existential threat to the US airline industry.

Banding together with United Airlines and several trade unions under the so-called Partnership for Open and Fair Skies, they accuse Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways of receiving $42 billion in state subsidies over the past decade.

The alleged handouts – documented in a 55-page dossier released by the US lobbyists in March – may contravene the terms of the Open Skies agreements that America has signed with the UAE and Qatar. Those bilateral treaties allow the Gulf carriers to launch unlimited flights to the US mainland, but only if they operate on a commercial basis free from government support...

UAE carriers playing the field

Full article in PDF format

Even for aviation pundits well accustomed to the extravagance of the Gulf carriers, last summer's unveiling of the 'Residence' – an ultra-luxurious First Class product developed by Etihad Airways, the flag-carrier of Abu Dhabi – caught many in the industry by surprise.

Nestled in the nose of Etihad's double-decker Airbus A380s, the Residence comprises a living room, bathroom and double bedroom spread across 125 square feet of airborne real-estate. Passengers who stump up the $32,000 price tag for a one-way flight to New York are accompanied on their journey by a Savoy-trained butler and a personal chef. Nine smaller 'Apartments' fill out the remainder of the vast First Class cabin on Etihad's A380s.

While gawking at the sheer opulence of the Residence, journalists attending its May 2014 launch were quick to raise questions about the commercial viability of the product. Could Etihad really justify sacrificing so many standard seats for one single, ultra-high-yield customer? Would the super-rich clientele being targeted not simply prefer to charter a private jet?

Those questions – still unanswered today, owing to the lack of transparency in Etihad's financial reporting – lie at the heart of the seemingly endless controversy over Gulf-carrier business models...

Doha takes its own path

Full article in PDF format

In terms of overarching strategy, state-owned Qatar Airways has adopted the exact same business model as its neighbours in the UAE. Just like Dubai's Emirates Airline and Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways, the Doha-based carrier uses a central hub as a bridging point to connect passengers between overseas destinations.

Qatar's geography at the crossroads of East and West unlocks a rising tide of intercontinental demand for the airline, while its government's deep pockets ensure that funding for infrastructure never runs dry. A nationwide ban on trade unions also helps to keep the workforce in check.

Dig a little deeper, however, and longstanding chief executive Akbar Al Baker is clearly stamping his own mark on the mega-hub model...

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Iraqi Airways cold shouldered by Europe

Full article in PDF format

Customers of Iraqi Airways were left stranded across Europe in August after the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) rejected its request for a new operating permit on safety grounds. Despite being notified of the decision on 16 July, the flag-carrier did not inform its passengers and instead waited for national regulators to revoke their licences one-by-one over the following weeks.

With all pre-existing permits now nullified, Iraqi Airways is banned from deploying its own aircraft to the 28 member states of the European Union (EU) plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland...

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Clear skies ahead for Iranian aviation

Full article in PDF format

"This is the end of 'Death to America'," gushed one Tehran-based analyst as he joined the throngs of Iranians celebrating in the streets of their capital city. Following 20 months of negotiations, and 36 years of diplomatic acrimony, Iran and six global powers put their differences behind them on the 14 July with the announcement of a landmark nuclear agreement. Though the talks centred on curtailing Iran's uranium-enrichment programme, their success promised so much more: a geopolitical re-birth for an international pariah state; a social awakening for 77 million Iranians; a commercial revolution for their $420-billion economy.

Jubilation on the Iranian street was tempered by more cautious reactions in the business community...

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Oman Air playing the long-game

Full article in PDF format

As a mid-sized airline in the ultra-competitive Gulf aviation market, you might expect Oman Air to welcome any hurdles thrown in the way of its larger competitors in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar. Efforts by the US airline industry to clip the wings of the 'big three' Gulf carriers – Dubai’s Emirates Airline, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways – should in theory give Oman's flag-carrier breathing space to catch up with its rivals.

The Muscat-based airline was not mentioned in the now-infamous 55-page dossier released by US lobbyists in March, which urged Washington to block further expansion by the 'big three'...

Monday, 1 June 2015

Low-cost in the Levant

Full article in PDF format

The Jordanian aviation sector gained a new player on 19 May, when Air Arabia launched operations from Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport to Kuwait in conjunction with local equity partner RUM Group, a Jordanian travel provider.

Amman becomes the fifth hub in privately owned Air Arabia’s network, furthering its long-term aim of offering point-to-point connectivity across the Middle East and North Africa. The low-cost carrier’s main operating base of Sharjah was last year complemented by a secondary UAE hub in Ras al-Khaimah, while it also operates joint ventures in Alexandria, Egypt and Casablanca, Morocco. Expansion to Jordan, however, comes with risk...

Friday, 1 May 2015

The new silk road

Full article in PDF format

With so many column inches about the Gulf carriers devoted to their fast-expanding passenger operations, it is easy to forget that Qatar Airways, Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways carry more than just human cargo. Beneath the main decks of their passenger aircraft, the region’s big three airlines are also driving rapid growth in freight traffic over Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi – turning the Gulf into a bridging point for goods as much as travellers.

The numbers are staggering, even for a sector long associated with breakneck expansion. Middle Eastern carriers nearly tripled their share of global air cargo traffic from 4% to 11% between 2003 and 2013, according to US aircraft manufacturer Boeing...

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The big subsidies debate

Full article in PDF format

No-one disputes that the meteoric rise of Emirates Airline, Dubai’s state-owned flag-carrier, has changed the face of civil aviation. Having started life in 1985 with just two aircraft, the Gulf carrier has ballooned in size to become the world’s largest international airline by seating capacity. Its rapid growth has gone hand-in-hand with the broader economic development of Dubai, whose government sees aviation as a strategic priority.

Geographical advantage undoubtedly lies at the heart of Emirates’ success – Dubai sits at the cross-roads of East and West, making it an ideal stopover for intercontinental travel – but has this blessing been harnessed fairly by a commercial entity, or leveraged maliciously by a deep-pocketed government...

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Iraqi aviation under fire

Full article in PDF format

The apparent targeting of an aircraft operated by Flydubai, the short-haul affiliate of Emirates Airline, during a routine landing at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) has rightly rattled nerves in the Gulf aviation sector, coming just six months after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) in eastern Ukraine.

Although there are few direct parallels between the incidents – one involved a sophisticated surface-to-air missile; the other rudimentary small-arms fire – threats to airspace security are never taken lightly by governments. This applies doubly so in Iraq, where the Islamic State (IS) boasts in its armoury a variety of anti-aircraft guns and shoulder-fired MANPADS (man-portable air-defence systems), including the Russian-made SA-16 and SA-18, and the Chinese-made FN-6. Shootdowns of government aircraft have been documented on both sides of the Iraq/Syria border.

The burning question for travellers is whether or not such weapons pose a credible threat to civilian aircraft at BIAP. Unfortunately, the answer is almost certainly yes...

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Better path for Kuwait Airways

Full article in PDF format

The Gulf often features prominently in discussions about civil aviation, but Kuwait is one name that rarely, if ever, gets a mention. Whereas Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar have over the years developed world-class hubs that hoover up and redistribute intercontinental traffic, Kuwait International Airport remains something of a minnow in the regional marketplace.

These contrasting fortunes are no accident of history. The UAE and Qatar are only now reaping the spoils of aviation after pumping billions of dollars into their ground and air infrastructure. Alongside weighty financial investment, long-term political vision in both countries has nurtured pro-aviation environments with low costs and liberal visa regimes. This has in turn given their state-owned flag-carriers – Emirates Airline, Flydubai, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways – a solid foundation for commercial viability.

It is a very different story in Kuwait, where, despite immense national wealth and a vibrant political landscape, Kuwait Airways has floundered for decades...

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Interview: Paul Byrne, Flynas CEO

Full article in PDF format

There was no shortage of sceptics in the airline industry when Flynas, Saudi Arabia’s only private scheduled carrier, began operating long-haul flights in early 2014. Sure enough it took just a few months for the airline to scrap the new routes; return its widebody Airbus A330s; and hire yet another chief executive – the fourth in three years.

Incoming boss Paul Byrne, who took to the helm on 1 November, admits that the airline made a strategic blunder by going long-haul. Its limited overseas brand awareness and semi-budget product was always going to struggle when competing with better-established flag-carrier Saudia...

Monday, 1 December 2014

Interview: Habiba Laklalech, Royal Air Maroc Deputy CEO

Full article in PDF format

Though global airlines are enjoying benign market conditions at present, the industry has a habit of swinging from crisis to crisis over the long-term. Carriers based in the Middle East and North Africa have experienced this more than most, suffering not only from the 2001 terror attacks on America and the 2008 global financial crisis, but also the 2011 Arab Spring and its ongoing legacy of regional instability.

In the North African state of Morocco, flag-carrier Royal Air Maroc (RAM) can add one more crisis to that already ample list of headaches. In 2006, the Moroccan government initiated an open skies agreement with the European Union, swinging open the doors of competition and granting foreign airlines unbridled access to the country in a bid to expand its tourism sector...

Saturday, 1 November 2014

TAAG angling for investment

Full article in PDF format

Sir Tim Clark, the president of Emirates Airline, Dubai's flag-carrier, has often spoken critically about the kind of equity investments and deep-rooted partnerships that Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways favours. Whereas Etihad holds stakes in eight overseas airlines, Emirates largely stands alone in the global marketplace. It can afford to do so: in just three decades, Emirates has become the largest carrier in the world by passenger capacity. Alliance membership, codeshare agreements and equity deals simply don't have the same charm for Sir Tim as for other, less exalted airline bosses.

His scepticism has also been shaped by personal experience. In 1998, Emirates acquired 43.6% of SriLankan Airlines under a ten-year management contract. The partnership delivered few strategic benefits, instead becoming a huge drain on resources...