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The Economist on Gulf airlines taking over 4, June 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar, The Emirates.
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The economist has an excellent in-depth article on the three major Gulf airlines.Some highlights:

– Dubai’s T3 “will soon be the largest building in the world by floor space”

–  Dubai is current the the 3rd busiest airport in the world (23.s million passengers per year). Hong Kong International is second and Heathrow is first.

– Dubai is building a wholly new airport (who knew?). It’s costing $50 billion and will open in the early 2020s and be  “by far the biggest in the world”.

– Gulf Air used to be an airline for all the Trucial States and Qatar.

Saudi to enter Gulf aviation industry 18, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia, The Gulf.
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As if Middle Eastern skies were not full enough, Saudi Arabia has announced plans to become a “major international aviation hub by 2035”. These kinds of slightly bombastic statements have been heard before with the various launches and relaunches of Gulf Air, Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways and with Etihad Airways.

Some interesting points to note:

  • Even though Saudi may well be undertaking a “comprehensive overhaul” it is a decade behind the regional curve. The afore mentioned airlines will be hundreds of aircraft, tens of billions of dollars worth of investments and numerous world-class airports ahead of Saudi Arabia. Saudi will not only not have the luxury of a relatively free international aviation market to grow into, but instead they will be seeking to grow as Emirates, Qatar and Etihad are maturing into ever more competitive, world-spanning airlines.
  • However, MEED sagely notes that Saudi will base their growth not as much on the frightfully competitive international market per se, but on domestic aviation (something no other GCC states can do) and on religious pilgrims.
  • This unique market will have to do for Saudi Arabia. I can not foresee how they could possibly compete with the established GCC and other carriers on Europe to Asia flights, barring an unsustainable and epically costly slashing of ticket prices. Without a positive aviation reputation and certainly without alcohol, such markets will prove, I believe, outwith their reach.
  • Saudi hopes that King Abdulaziz International in Jeddah will be one of the largest airports in the world handling 80 million passengers a year by 2035.

No frills Qatar Airways? Not yet 7, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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The CEO of Qatar Airways has said that whilst the company has finalised a plan to launch a low-cost regional carrier under Qatar Airway’s umbrella, until the market picks up again such a venture will not be launched. Exactly when the situation will look rosy enough for Qatar to launch a no-frills, cheaper airline is unclear. Not only is the economic recovery of the region materialising slowly but there are arguably underlying structural weaknesses in economies in the region, notably in Dubai, which may yet jeopardise growth. Moreover, with Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways and Gulf Air all vying to act as regional and international hub airlines, competition is exceedingly fierce. Also in the no-frills sector there is a lot of competition with Kuwait based Jazeera and Wataniya and Air Arabia, Air Bahrain and Fly Dubai based further down the Gulf.

Qatar Airways to drop First Class on some flights 11, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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It has been announced that Qatar Airways is eliminating First Class seats from some of its new airplane orders. Whilst First Class is, generally speaking, never an airline’s most profitable section, this is still a curious move.

Firstly, Qatar is, according to various GDP per capita figures, the richest country on earth. Ergo, presumably a reasonably high proportion of its citizens can pay for First Class. Secondly, Qatar is one of only six 5 star airlines in the world, for which one presumably needs to have a full range of classes. Moreover, more generally, given the wealth evident in Qatar and the feel and impression that one gets from the country as a whole and Qataris specifically, getting rid of First Class is simply really rather unexpected.

In purely financial terms, the decision makes more sense; Business Class is where the real money is at in international aviation. Also, I’d be exceedingly surprised if they got rid of First Class on, for example, Doha- London or Doha-New York routes.


It’s been kindly pointed out to me that in fact Qatar Airways haven’t had First Class on DOH-NYC/LON fights for some time now, and that the business section is just much bigger. I assumed that monied Qataris would ‘demand’ first class to such destinations. One learns something new every day…

BA set for Christmas strike 14, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in UK.
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British Airways – ‘the world’s favourite airline’ – will, according to reports, vote in favour of a Christmas strike perhaps starting on the 21st December. They have a monumental hole in their pension pot as well as making an estimated £600 million loss this year and BA’s management have been seeking ways to cut costs. One of these has been through charging to reserve seats in advance and another has been reducing staffing costs. Indeed, the latter does not seem so unreasonable given that BA’s cabin crew earn almost twice as much as some of their rivals.

I really have no idea as to what BA needs to do. All I do unequivocally know is that having a strike at Christmas, with people flying home to their relatives, will erode BA’s name and customer base yet further and earn them vitriol and hate. They must not do this. If the London tube drivers want to strike (though I think it’s reprehensible given their pay) then but so be it: people will always have to take the tube. Need it be said that the same is utterly untrue for BA? With Emirates, Ethiad and Qatar airways buying billions and billions of dollars worth of new, beautifully comfortable planes and offering discounted ticket prices compared to BA’s overpriced tickets for old planes, (not to mention healthy European competition) striking would be, as far as I see it, more or less suicide.

I very much hope that I am reading this situation wrongly. For as average as BA are these days I nevertheless think it’s exceedingly important for Britain to retain a viable flagship carrier.

Update: Cabin crew have voted for a strike – 12 days (22nd December – 2nd January) affecting nearly 1 million passengers costing BA anywhere up to £80 million. Utter suicide.