The Middle East’s low-cost market is growing four-and-a-half times faster than global average, aviation experts discussed at the first CONNECT Middle East, India & Africa forum that took place alongside Arabian Travel Market 2019.
With Middle East seat capacity doubling to just under 264.31 million in the last 10 years, according to anna.aero data, the Gulf’s full-service and low-cost airlines have left their mark on the aviation industry – even if their global share remains relatively small at 4.7 per cent.
Emirates – which heads the region’s departing seat capacity (41.55 million) followed by Etihad Airways (37.14 million) – will add a second daily service between Dubai and London Stansted from July 1.
Gerald Ong, aviation marketing director, Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport, explained how it is also targeting more premium travel. “We have seen a lot of growth with Pegasus but now, with more Gulf carriers’ flights, we are trying to change the airport’s perception.”
Sudeep Ghai, chief customer and commercial officer, flyadeal, highlighted the opportunities it has seized since the low-cost airline started up in Saudi Arabia 18 months ago. The carrier serves eight domestic airports with 10 A320s and has handled 2.5 million passengers.
“When we began, it took a while for the market to understand the nature of the opportunity and there was a lot of scepticism,” he said. “But we’ve disrupted the market and brought low fares to the Kingdom.”
Capitalising on the country’s young tech-savvy population, he added that the airline is focused on digital and 60 per cent of its bookings are on mobiles. “Saudis are hungry to explore and in time we will look to expand internationally – the obvious candidates are within a three-to-four, hour radius, such as Egypt, Jordan and UAE.”
More than 300 aviation and airport professionals and 40 airlines were represented at the inaugural conference bringing together airline and airport executives with manufacturers and suppliers, providing a global forum for business and networking opportunities.
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