ME airlines at forefront of recovery: IATA


By Abdul Basit

DUBAI – International air-passenger traffic is back above pre-recession levels and Middle Eastern carriers continue to post strong growth, the International Air Transport Association, or IATA, said.

Global scheduled traffic statistics for May show an 11.7 per cent increase in passenger traffic and a 34.3 per cent jump in freight demand compared to May 2009, according to IATA.

Middle East carriers, which are still outperforming the global average level, recorded a 17.5 per cent increase in demand during May, compared to same month in 2009.

“The region’s carriers continue to post strong growth with connecting traffic through their hubs, although the pace of growth has dropped from the over 20 per cent increases recorded earlier in the year,” the association said.

In May, Dubai International airport recorded eleventh consecutive month of double-digit passenger growth and also predicted strong traffic in June and September. This week, the aviation hub of the Middle East — Dubai — joined an elite group of two-airport cities when Dubai Airports officially opened Dubai World Central – Al Maktoum International for cargo operations.

Al Maktoum International, Dubai’s second international air hub, is designed to be the world’s largest airport when it is fully completed. It will have five runways, four terminal buildings and capacity for 160 million passengers and 12 million tonnes of cargo.

Carriers in the Middle East and specially in the UAE continue expansion plans. Emirates recently ordered for 32 more A380 planes. Flydubai is also expanding and it reached over 20 destinations within a year of operations.

This month, Air Arabia, the first and largest low-cost carrier in the Middle East and North Africa, and Jordan-based Tantash Group announced a joint venture to launch a new low-cost carrier based in Amman, Jordan.

In May, the Middle East was the second highest-performing region in terms of demand, behind Latin America with 23.6 per cent growth.

“Demand rebounded strongly in May following the impact of the European volcanic ash fiasco in April. Passenger traffic is now one per cent above pre-recession levels, while the freight market is 6 per cent bigger,” said IATA Director-General Giovanni Bisignani.

Strong traffic growth is contributing to a strengthening industry bottom line. “This is good news, but it is only a 0.5 per cent margin. We are still a long way from sustainable profitability.”

For freight demand North American and Middle East airlines posted a similar growth of 35.3 per cent and 38.6 per cent respectively.