GRIDPOINT CONSULTING‘s Robert Boyle writes:

A profile of Middle Eastern aviation

Boutique executive search firm Venari Partners has asked me to profile the aviation industry of some of the regions that get less coverage than Europe, North America and Asia.

I’ve already taken a look at Africa, so this time it is the turn of the Middle East.

This region is home to some of the biggest and fastest growing airlines in the world. The region’s airlines tend to win the top awards for customer service and have been some of the biggest investors in product and brand development.

Owned and backed by governments, their strategies have been heavily driven by national development considerations. Making money has been a secondary consideration for their shareholders, who need to diversify their economies away from a reliance on oil and gas. A big part of their mission is to develop their home cities as global hubs for commerce and tourism, and to build the national brand.

It is perhaps ironic that Emirates, the pioneer that the others have sought to emulate, is based in Dubai, which does not have much oil wealth. Although by some margin the largest of the players before the crisis, it built that position over a much longer period and has been more moderate in its growth in recent years, with a stronger focus on profitability.

Before looking at how the region’s airlines have coped with the crisis, I will start by reviewing the state of the industry in 2019.

Before the crisis

Measured by capacity touching the Middle East, four airlines dominated the market in 2019. After Emirates, Qatar, Etihad and Saudia, things drop off very quickly.

I’ve used the OAG definition of the Middle East here, so Israel is included and Turkey is not. By this definition, Turkish Airlines is the only non Middle Eastern airline to feature in the top 10. They make the list even though most of their capacity is excluded according to this definition.

Where are all these flights going? Asia is the biggest destination region, followed by Europe. That reflects the fact that the primary role of the big Middle Eastern airlines is to connect the two regions, taking advantage of their geographic position between two of the world’s biggest aviation markets.

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