UAE carriers pin high hopes on Expo, route networks
Senior industry executives and aviation analysts see 2020 as a promising year for local airlines in the UAE, which will focus on new route networks, cost optimisation, as well as cashing in on increased traffic from the middle of this year for the Expo 2020 Dubai event.
The latter half of the year will benefit from Expo 2020, pushing into 2021 - but customers will be the biggest winners. Choice, pricing, and growing city pair options out of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah will ensure that the UAE remains a key nexus point for regional and international travel.
Emirates, the world's largest international carrier, said that it will usher in 2020 with a continued focus on strengthening its businesses across operational, commercial and customer experience metrics, and excitement for Expo2020.
"In 2020, we'll continue to leverage our partnerships to provide even more connectivity and value for our customers. And we look forward to welcoming the world to Dubai for Expo2020, where we will showcase the future of aviation at the Emirates Pavilion," said Sir Tim Clark, the outgoing president of Emirates, the world's largest international carrier.
Commenting on 2020 targets, Ghaith Al Ghaith, chief executive officer at flydubai, said that the budget carrier is eagerly looking towards Expo 2020. He also said that the airline's partnership with its larger partner, Emirates, will continue to grow this year and help strengthen Dubai's position as a global aviation hub.
"As we look ahead, we are very much looking forward to Expo 2020, a celebration of the UAE's Vision 2021, which will place Dubai at the heart of international societal and cultural developments. We are excited about the role we will play in removing barriers to travel by enabling more people to travel to Dubai especially from the 71 destinations on our network that did not previously have direct air links to Dubai," Al Ghaith said. "2020 will see us enter the third year of our strategic partnership with Emirates. The partnership looks set to continue to grow next year and this will help to further strengthen Dubai's position as a leading global aviation hub."
Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at London-based StrategicAero Research, said that Emirates will look towards 2020 with a degree of positivity as it harnesses the spoils of the Expo 2020 kicking off, as well as its strategic overhaul of its management and leadership once someone is installed to replace Sir Tim Clark.
"The airline has already firmed up orders for A350s and 787s to diversify its future fleet away from the ageing Airbus A380 and provide more flexibility across its network as it looks to bolster yields and become more proactive to customer demand. On the back of that, the planned launch of its new Premium Economy will make it the first GCC airline and even the wider EMEA region to offer this cabin class. Also, Emirates is concentrating on transforming the way it competes and will further deepen its ties to flydubai," he said.
With regard to the 737 MAX's expected re-entry into service in the summer months, Ahmad said that it will still take a number of months before flydubai can really capitalise on the fuel-efficient fleet and get to where it needs to be in terms of expansion.
Mark D. Martin, founder and CEO of Martin Consulting, said the key focus of local and regional carriers will be cost-efficiency and cost-optimisation. Despite some challenges such as the 737 MAX, he said that local carriers should emerge victorious as they have previously seen worse crisis such as the 2009 financial crisis and the 9/11 attacks.
In addition, Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways and Sharjah's Air Arabia have it all to do with setting up Air Arabia Abu Dhabi (AAAD).
"With Air Arabia still a good few years away from receiving the first of its all new A320neo's, the carrier may well look to align and partner up with Etihad on a broader level to replicate the commercial success that Emirates and flydubai have harnessed," Saj Ahmad elaborated.
Earlier, Emirates said it carried close to 58 million passengers in 2019 as compared to 59 million passengers in previous year, as runway closure for the upgrade had results in reduction in Emirates flights in 2019. The airline operated over 3,500 flights on average per week, or over 186,000 flights in 2019, travelling more than 885 million kilometres around the globe, which is the distance equivalent of more than 2,300 trips to the moon and back. The airline served nearly 63 million meals on its flights departing Dubai, and handled over 35 million pieces of baggage at Dubai International alone. The airline served 159 destinations in 2019, with the addition of three new passenger routes. In addition, it increased frequencies and upgraded capacity to 12 points within its network.