Dubai Air Show

Middle East to be second in air travel growth

 - November 12, 2007, 5:31 AM

Over the last five years, no other region in the world has seen air travel, as measured by revenue-passenger kilometers and cargo traffic, grow faster than the Middle East, which has experienced an average growth rate of 12 percent. Boeing forecasts the future passenger traffic growth rate of the region to be 5.2 percent through 2026. Though that doesn’t match the growth of the Asia-Pacific region’s 6.7 percent, it easily surpasses the growth rates within Europe (3.5 percent) and North America (4.7 percent), and ranks higher than the average growth rate forecast for the world (5.0 percent).

The Middle East also has an expected greater increase in gross domestic product than the worldwide average, at 4 percent versus 3 percent. One of the region’s advantages lies in its central location between Europe and Asia. “From Dubai you can fly one-stop to almost anywhere in the world,” said Randy Tinseth, vice president, marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “The airlines are purchasing more airplanes and the airport infrastructure is expanding. Within five years, airport capacity will be increased by more than three million passengers in the region.”

The Middle East also exhibits the same air travel patterns over the last 20 years that the world showed on average, according to Boeing’s analysis. Air travel worldwide more than doubled and Boeing has seen airlines accommodating this growth by adding more flights, with more airplanes flying nonstop and consequently the average aircraft size has remained the same or decreased slightly. “Boeing calls this fragmentation,” Tinseth said. “Airlines are providing the more frequent nonstop service that passengers want.”

Over the next 20 years, Boeing expects this trend to continue. In the Middle East this will translate into 1,160 new airliners worth $190 billion. About 45 percent of these purchases will be replacement aircraft.  The total fleet will increase from 670 in 2006 to 1,320 in 2026. By segment, Boeing estimates the need in the Middle East for 110 jumbo airlines (747 or larger), 600 twin-aisle aircraft, 380 single-aisle aircraft and 70 regional jets.