Middle East aviation and travel retail set for huge boost after Qatar blockade is rescinded

Middle East USA World

MIDDLE EAST. A total of 20 Middle East routes and more than 1,400 weekly flights could eventually return to airline schedules, following the news that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have agreed to restore full ties with Qatar.

The blockade of Qatar commenced in 2017 and often required circuitous detours, which added significantly to travel times, fuel burn and competitiveness.

Qatar Airways stands to gain most from the restoration of Qatar’s ties with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE

Analysing full-year 2016 flight data, the airline network news agency anna.aero noted that Qatar Airways is set to be the greatest beneficiary in this huge fillip for Middle East aviation and a development which is also set to have very positive implications for travel retail.

The blockade had a particularly severe impact on Qatar Airways as its neighbours closed their airspace. However, the airline continued to prosper during the crisis, extending its global route network and during the height of the pandemic flying more miles than any other international carrier.

During 2016, 16 airlines operated between Doha and these four countries. They had 13.9 million seats and over one-quarter of Doha’s total capacity, research from flight analyst OAG shows.

The UAE was top with over 7.7 million seats, followed by Saudi Arabia (3.2 million), Bahrain (1.7 million), and Egypt (1.2 million).

Airports such as DXB could see retail revenues boosted as flights increase following the end of the blockade

Qatar Airways dominates capacity share to these countries. In 2016, it had 8.4 million, or about six in ten of the total seats, representing about 19% of the network carrier’s total capacity that year.

The other carriers occupying the top five slots were Emirates (1.6 million seats), flydubai (1.3 million), Gulf Air (576,000), and Etihad (509,000).

In 2016, anna.aero noted that there were 19 scheduled routes from Doha to these four countries, with 14 having more than 200,000 seats. A 20th route, Yanbu, began in May 2017.

DXB (Dubai International) was the top destination across all carriers in 2016 with nearly 4.9 million seats, almost three times more than second-placed Bahrain.