Dubai-United Arab Emirates, 07 May, 2013: Saudi Arabia and the UAE have emerged as the leading countries in the Middle East in terms of air traffic volume while Qatar demonstrated the strongest growth. The three countries together represented over 53 per cent or 52.8 million of the total 99 million passengers whose point of departure originated from the Middle East in 2012, according to Amadeus, a leading technology partner to the global travel industry.
Data indicates that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar enjoyed an average growth rate of 10 per cent in air traffic volume in 2012 as compared to the previous year, thus outpacing, by a large margin, the 2 per cent growth experienced in the Middle East as a whole.
Released at a press conference at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM 2013) today, the analysis forms part of a wider insight that identifies the world's most competitive air travel markets and global air travel trends followed on an annual basis. Obtained via the Amadeus Air Traffic Travel Intelligence solution, the findings are based on the calculation of the most accurate air passenger volume for any Origin and Destination (O&D) worldwide .
The following are the highlights from the findings:
Middle East air travel market share – Saudi Arabia leads in absolute terms, Qatar being the fastest expanding
Saudi Arabia remains the largest air travel market in the region. The 25 million passengers who started their journey from the country accounted for 25 per cent of the total passenger traffic in the Middle East in 2012.
The UAE followed a close second, commanding 23 per cent of the regional market share and serving as the point of origin for 23.1 million passengers.
Representing 5 per cent of the region's air traffic market with 4.74 million travellers, Qatar led the way in terms of passenger volume growth.
Addressing the press conference, Antoine Medawar, Vice President, Middle East and North Africa, Amadeus, underlined the relevance of reliable data to the growth of the airline industry: “These findings, based on data directly sourced from the Amadeus Air Traffic Travel Intelligence solution, provide a precise snapshot of trends in air traffic volume in the Middle East – a market that is rapidly evolving. We are confident that such insights will better place decision makers to respond to the different dynamics in their airline's operations.”
UAE emerges as the most prominent point of origin for intercontinental journeys, while Saudi volume is driven by domestic traffic
More air passengers began their intercontinental journey in the UAE (15.7 million passengers flown) in 2012 than they did combined in Saudi Arabia (7.8 million passengers flown) and in Qatar (2.8 million passengers flown). The UAE also has the highest ratio of intercontinental travellers (68 per cent) versus passengers travelling within the country and departing from there to other destinations within the region (32 per cent). Qatar has the second highest ratio (59 per cent of intercontinental passengers). For the UAE, the analysis also highlights Dubai-London as the top route.
The intercontinental travellers for Saudi Arabia account only for 31 per cent, as the market topped the list of all Middle Eastern countries in terms of total domestic travellers – 11.1 million passengers flown, representing 44 per cent of passenger volume. Jeddah – Riyadh appeared as the busiest route in Saudi.
In terms of regional traffic, the UAE was the most used point of origin for the 7.2 million travellers who flew within the region, followed by Saudi Arabia, which served as the point of origin for 6.1 million travellers within the region.
Elaborating on the reason behind such travel data, Antoine Medawar, said: “Major factors that feed the demand on certain intercontinental routes – particularly those that connect the GCC to Europe and South Asia – is the growing macroeconomic significance of the region. This includes the large number of expatriates who reside in the GCC, and who need to visit their home countries regularly. The growing domestic routes in Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, are not only supported by the country's vast geographical size, but also by the thousands of pilgrims who journey within the country.”
UAE leads the way in low cost airline market share
As indicated by the data, the overall market share of the Middle East's low cost carriers inched up from 11.7 per cent in 2011 to 13.5 per cent in 2012, a low figure compared to other regions such as Europe, South Asia or North America regions. The data reveals these airlines are making the largest impact in the UAE market, with low cost carriers commanding 23 per cent of the share of traffic in 2012. Low cost carriers had a 8 per cent share of traffic in the Qatari air travel market and 9 per cent in the Saudi market.
“Budget airlines in the region are in a strong position to capture a larger share of traffic, as the ticket price is the universal factor that influences a passenger decision to fly a particular airline – the convenience of schedule and quality of service also being passenger priorities. In the GCC, budget airlines will face greater challenges on account of their non-budget counterparts, given the greater spending power an average person enjoys, and the sense of pride and loyalty that GCC passengers usually attach to favourite, non-budget airlines,” Medawar said.
Connecting air traffic statistics underscores emergence of Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai as global travel hubs
In terms of connecting air traffic, the Middle East showed strong performance with the three key airports of Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi experiencing high connecting traffic volumes around 50 per cent and growing at 10 per cent per annum, while other major airports in the region (Jeddah, Riyadh or Cairo) showed connection rates of around 10 per cent. This growth echoes the findings of the Amadeus report Securing the Prize for the Middle East, which examined the factors enabling the Middle East to underpin the next wave of globalisation created by emerging economies seeking to become one of the world's dominant global travel hubs.
Underlining the vast potential the region's airline industry has on the global aviation stage, Medawar commented: “Over the years, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha have executed strategies that are putting together the world's finest airports, airplanes and professionals who are re-defining industry standards. The growth figures for these hubs are in line with strategic investments that each country has undertaken in the civil aviation sector. Recent partnerships such as Emirates and Qantas or Easyjet and Skywards (Emirates' award-winning frequent flyer programme) are just two very good examples of the region's bright potential to evolve into the world's top aviation hubs.”
When quantified as a group, Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi airports already serve around 15 per cent of air traffic volume between Asia - Europe as well as Europe - South Asia. It is particularly interesting to note that overall traffic volume between Europe and Asia is growing by approximately 7 per cent year over year, but traffic volume between these two locations and routed via the Middle East grew by approximately 20 per cent between 2011 and 2012.