Middle East passenger numbers are forecast to grow by 7% according to the International Air Transport Association, despite a strong headwind of global economic turbulence and fluctuating oil prices, the unpredictability of American President Donald Trump and continued Brexit negotiations. Aviation will feature heavily in the programme at Arabian Travel Market (ATM). The sessions at ATM will be moderated by Alan Peaford, a former national newspaper journalist and current president of the UK’s Institute of Internal Communications. Peaford edited Flight International’s Flight Daily News for 17 years and has won an Aerospace Journalist of the Year award on five occasions.
IATA figures also revealed that Middle East airlines will see net profits doubling to $600 million in 2018, double what they are estimated to make this year. Passenger capacity is also estimated to rise by 6.6% this year and a further 4.9% increase is forecast for 2018.
However, Etihad Airways bucked the trend in July when it posted a group loss of AED6.86 billion ($1.87 billion) for 2016. The figure was heavily influenced by one-off impairments that included AED3.67 billion ($1 billion) on aircraft and AED2.96 billion ($808 million) on exposures to the ailing carriers Alitalia and Air Berlin.
“President Trump’s protectionist agenda may also impact the Open Skies Agreement which US airlines have campaigned bitterly against for several years.”The success of the aviation industry in the sky is matched in the Middle East by the continued huge infrastructure investment.
In the GCC countries, Saudi Arabia accounted for the largest share of project value, followed by the UAE 26%, and Kuwait 12%.
The Gulf region’s aviation projects also accounted for 72 per cent of the total estimated value for all aviation projects in the Middle East and North Africa. Confirmed exhibiting airlines for ATM 2018 include Etihad Airways, Fly Dubai and Saudi Airlines with more major players to follow.
“Aviation and aerospace is thriving despite lower oil prices. Even with regional uncertainties aviation continues to grow. The Arab air transport market grew by 9.9% in the past year, according to the Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO) at its 2017 AGM. Growth figures like these should support lively debate at ATM 2018 and provide an element of cautious optimism.”
Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, Arabian Travel Market
“As this mixed bag of results demonstrates, there are continued challenges to be faced by the aviation sector in the Middle East. This includes the US Supreme Court’s decision to back President Donald Trump’s third travel ban, blocking the entry of travellers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.