Demand for new aircraft rises across the Middle East

21 November 2012

Middle Eastern carriers will account for almost 10 per cent of predicted global aircraft deliveries

As the Middle East continues to position itself as a major international travel hub, demand for new and larger aircraft is increasing.

Demand from Middle East carriers, such as the Dubai-based Emirates or Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, will account for almost 10 per cent of the predicted global deliveries of new passenger aircraft over the next 20 years, according to forecasts by France-headquartered aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

According to Airbus’ global market forecast 2012, 27,350 passenger aircraft will be ordered globally over the next 20 years. A total of 28,200 freight and passenger aircraft will be delivered in the next two decades and the global aviation market will be valued at $4 trillion.

Of this, 1,960 aircraft will be ordered by Middle-East airlines, with 792 single-aisle aircraft, 826 twin-aisle aircraft and 345 very large aircraft predicted to be delivered. The total market value of the Middle East aircraft business will be $408bn.

As the region’s major airlines look to expand their routes and carry more long-haul traffic from Europe to Asia, Africa and the Americas, the airlines are investing in larger, more technologically advanced and more comfortable aircraft.

In November, Qatar Airways took delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner in mid-November, one of a 60-aircraft order that will be delivered in phases over the next few years. The Dreamliner aircraft promises to offer passengers greater in-flight comfort, as well as being a more energy-efficient plane.

The Qatari airline’s current fleet commprises 111 passenger and cargo aircraft. With over 250 aircraft worth more than $50bn on its order books, the airline is one of the most aggressively expanding airlines in the region.

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways is also ramping up its fleet in the coming years and looking to order larger aircraft.

At the end of October, the airline converted seven of its previously ordered Airbus A320s to the largest A321 model. It also signed another order with Airbus for two more A330-200 passenger aircraft.

By the end of the year, Etihad’s fleet is set to increase from 67 to 71 aircraft.

Dubai-based Emirates Airlines is continuing to expand its fleet of the larger Airbus’ A380s aircraft.  In October, it took delivery of two A380s, as well as a Boeing 777-300.

Emirates currently has 25 A380s in its fleet, rising to 31 by the end of the year. It has a further 65 A380s on order. The airline is one of the largest A380 customers in the world.

The airline has 216 aircraft worth $62bn on its order book, adding to the 186 aircraft the airline already has in operation.

In contrast to the success of the large national carriers, other Middle Eastern airlines are not faring as well, as they battle against continued high fuel prices and political unrest. Several airlines have been forced to reduce the size of their fleets and review their order books.

Bahrain Air reduced its fleet from six aircraft to two A319s and two A320s.

Gulf Air announced in November that it has reduced its order for Boeing wide-body 787 Dreamliners from 24 to between 12 and 16 aircraft. The aircraft are scheduled for delivery towards the end of the decade.

The carrier has also cut its order with Airbus from 20 wide-body aircraft to eight A320ceo (current engine option) family aircraft, which will be delivered by the end of the year. Up to 16 A320neo (new engine option) family planes are planned to be added to the fleet towards the end of decade.

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