Middle East exception to malaise for airlines

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

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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.