Figures released by International Air Transport Association (IATA) reveal that Middle East airlines continued to show impressive growth through expansion in international passenger markets.
These airlines grew at the rate of 15.4 percent and accounted for almost a third of the total expansion in international passenger markets in 2012. In 2011, these airlines experienced 8.9 percent growth as air travel to the region was hit by the Arab Spring. The airlines achieved a capacity expansion of 12.5 percent and also improved the load factor to 77.4 percent. A statement issued by the IATA reads that, “despite the expansion, the improved load factor indicates that the growth is sustainable and that airlines in the region have been successful in attracting new passengers”.
The regional carriers successfully increased the connectivity of their hubs and frequency of flights to different destinations. Qatar Airways, Etihad and Emirates Airlines continued to achieve strong growth in profits as they were able to attract large passenger volumes on the back of growth in regional tourism, aggressive marketing campaigns and increase in routes.
The Middle East and African carriers were also able to increase the cargo load as new trade lanes opened between the two regions. The growth of 14.7 percent in freight demand was driven by sweetening of trade relations between the two regions. Year-on-year, the passenger demand increased by 5.3 percent, while there was a 1.5 percent decline in cargo. However, the growth in passenger demand was lower than the 5.9 percent increase recorded in 2011. This was the second consecutive year of decline in passenger travel.
Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO, believes that growth in passenger demand demonstrates the importance of air travel in a highly connected world. High load factors also show that airlines have also improved their management of capacity. “Growth and high aircraft utilization combined to help airlines deliver an estimated $6.7bn profit in 2012 despite high fuel prices,” he said.