The GCC states are working to redesign their airspace to prevent congestion once major airport projects are complete.
Each of the six GCC states have at least one major airport project planned, including Al-Maktoum International airport in Dubai, Bahrain International, Kuwait International and New Doha International in Qatar. Oman has two major airport expansions in Muscat and Salalah and Saudi Arabia is expanding airports at Medina and Jeddah.
“The Gulf would like one well-coordinated airspace above the Gulf states,” says Majdi Sabri, regional vice-president for Middle East and North Africa at Montreal-based International Air Transport Association (Iata).
“We are working [with Gulf governments] to redesign the airspace and give more space to civilian traffic. Sixty per cent of Gulf airspace is blocked by the military,” says Sabri.
Having one airspace would also help to reduce the congestion forecast when all the airport developments are complete.
“There is an air traffic management plan [in place], but it takes time. All the states are convinced it should be done as soon as possible,” adds Sabri.
Middle East airlines are forecast to perform well in 2011, making a profit of about $300m (MEED 21:9:10). However, if the political unrest across the region, particularly in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt continues, this may put a dent in the expected profits. Tourist traffic to these countries is dwindling with some airlines cancelling flights to Tripoli, but traffic will climb again once stability returns.