Arab Spring Takes Its Toll
The so-called Arab Spring political upheaval across North Africa and parts of the Middle East has also been a significant disruptor of airline business in the region. The most seriously impacted were Libyan carriers Afriqiyah Airways and Libyan Airlines, which had aircraft destroyed or damaged by NATO air strikes against the former government of the late Col. Muammar Gaddafi. In neighboring Egypt, flagcarrier Egyptair and Air Cairo are trying to rebuild against a backdrop of continuing political upheaval in what until this year’s revolution had been viewed as one of the Middle East’s fastest growing air transport markets. More optimistically, Tunisair is now preparing for what is hoped will be a revival in Tunisia’s fortunes following October’s elections of a post-revolt government.
Other AACO members feeling the heat from this year’s unprecedented wave of still unresolved political revolt are Yemenia, Gulf Air (based in Bahrain) and Syrian Arab Airlines. Dependence on government support would seem to leave these carriers particularly exposed to the prospect of regime-change. All the Arab Spring countries have seen steeply declining inbound traffic volumes this year. But despite this, overall traffic figures for the Middle East region have continued to show strong growth during 2011, according to figures from the International Air Transport Association.