The Middle East and northern Africa have become fertile areas for marketers at Brazil’s Embraer, now the undisputed leader in terms of fleet presence in the region among the world’s regional airliner manufacturers. Of course, the nearly decade-long effort to gain a foothold in a region long considered the virtually exclusive domain of widebodies didn’t yield immediate results, but Embraer’s persistence has undoubtedly paid handsome dividends.
A new Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) aviation study predicts that the Persian Gulf region will see 250 million passengers using its airports each year by 2020 and that annual Middle East aircraft movements will reach 2.3 million five years later, when the number of people living within range of a single flight reaches some 7 billion. The study, titled “The World Via Gulf” and published for Dubai’s The Airport Show, scheduled to take place from May 6 to 8 in Dubai, concludes that the region’s aviation industry will create 294,000 jobs over the next two decades.
Bahraini flag carrier Gulf Air last week signaled a major shift in its fleet plans, affecting orders with both Boeing and Airbus. The airline has already signed so-called amendment agreements with the manufacturers “to reduce long-term liability and meet future strategic needs.”
Gulf Air said negotiations with the airframers date back to last year, as high fuel prices, a general slump in air traffic and so-called regional developments forced the airline to suspend service to a number of destinations in a bid to preserve its ongoing viability.
Bahrain Air got started close to the onset of the global economic slowdown and has found it hard to escape its grip. Incorporated in 2007 and operating its first flight in February 2008, the carrier has struggled to thrive in the cut-throat arena of the Arabian Gulf’s air transport market.
With Middle Eastern Emirates, Etihad and Qatar airlines experiencing exponential growth in the Arabian Gulf, there is a growing requirement for qualified pilots. The Gulf Aviation Training Event (GATE) will bring a panel of industry experts together to discuss and debate the pilot shortage in the region.
Privately owned Bahrain Air continues to struggle to establish its place in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, which has a proliferation of flag carriers and no-frills operators. After making its first passenger flight in February 2008, Bahrain Air has seen its passenger count rise to 720,000 in 2010, only to decrease to 640,000 last year, amid the global economic downturn and the internal troubles of its home country.
Regional airline service has been slow to take root in the Middle East, and especially at the entry-level turboprop end of the market. But now, a start-up operator in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is preparing to launch a feeder service to the region’s aspiring hubs in Abu Dhabi and Doha, giving locals the chance to bypass crowded Dubai.
Based in Fujairah, UAE, Eastern Express plans to ferry business passengers into Abu Dhabi and Doha to connect with growing Gulf-based international passenger networks starting during this year’s first quarter.
As the next biennial Dubai Air Show approaches, all eyes are on the Middle East, but not entirely for the usual reasons. Even after being dented by the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the region still holds huge potential for the air transport and aerospace industries.
An effort to inspire the youth of the United Arab Emirates to become the next generation of aviation professionals will take the form of the inaugural “Futures Day” at this year’s Dubai Air Show, scheduled to run from November 13 to 17 at the city’s Airport Expo.
Senior-level students from key UAE colleges and universities will receive invitations to attend Futures Day on the show’s final day.
No one can say where, when or how the rolling political crisis in North Africa and the Middle East will end, but it already seems clear that it doesn’t spell good news for the air transport industry.
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