Middle East exception to malaise for airlines



Demand for travel on Middle East airlines has outperformed the global sector as more flights are routed through the region.

"The region's carriers have successfully tapped into demand from emerging markets with the strength of their network structures and efficient hubs," said the International Air Transport Association (Iata), whose members include major airlines such as Air France-KLM, British Airways, Delta and Air China.

The Middle East has benefited from a 14.3 per cent increase in demand and a 14.4 per cent growth in capacity, said the Iata statement.

Middle East carriers, including Etihad Airways, Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines have been spending heavily on advertising as they carve out a larger market share amid a global decline in the aviation industry.

Turkish Airlines said it planned to increase its passenger headcount from 46 million this year to 90 million by 2020, the chief executive Temel Kotil said in an interview with The National last month. The carrier also plans to increase its destinations as it routes trips from Europe, the United States, Africa and the Middle East through its hub in Istanbul.

Meanwhile, global airlines continue to suffer from a decline in air travel amid a European debt crisis and budget cuts in the United States, where, airlines have reported a modest 1.5 per cent expansion in demand.

There are fears that US carriers could suffer further deep losses as budget cuts force airlines to operate security related services, which were previously managed by the government, increasing their costs.

"There are threats of reduced availability of government-provided services for airport security, border control and air traffic management," the statement said.

In Europe, growth was 2.1 per cent. "While demand was up on the year-ago period, it should be noted that the region's airlines have posted no growth in international markets since October," the industry body said. "The euro-zone crisis may have stabilised, but the region's economies are not growing and its airlines remained burdened by high taxes, onerous regulation and infrastructure constraints."

By contrast, demand in Asia and Africa resulted in an increase of 3 per cent and 9.4 per cent respectively.

Dubai works towards better air quality by 2021

Dubai is on a mission to record good air quality for 90 per cent of the year – up from 86 per cent annually today – by 2021.

The municipality plans to have seven mobile air-monitoring stations by 2020 to capture more accurate data in hourly and daily trends of pollution.

These will be on the Palm Jumeirah, Al Qusais, Muhaisnah, Rashidiyah, Al Wasl, Al Quoz and Dubai Investment Park.

“It will allow real-time responding for emergency cases,” said Khaldoon Al Daraji, first environment safety officer at the municipality.

“We’re in a good position except for the cases that are out of our hands, such as sandstorms.

“Sandstorms are our main concern because the UAE is just a receiver.

“The hotspots are Iran, Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq, but we’re working hard with the region to reduce the cycle of sandstorm generation.”

Mr Al Daraji said monitoring as it stood covered 47 per cent of Dubai.

There are 12 fixed stations in the emirate, but Dubai also receives information from monitors belonging to other entities.

“There are 25 stations in total,” Mr Al Daraji said.

“We added new technology and equipment used for the first time for the detection of heavy metals.

“A hundred parameters can be detected but we want to expand it to make sure that the data captured can allow a baseline study in some areas to ensure they are well positioned.”

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