Doha International Airport is the only commercial airport in the Arab emirate of Qatar. Oil and Gas rich, Qatar has experienced an economic boom on the back of increasing prices for these resources and now enjoys high levels of wealth. The national carrier of Qatar is the state-owned Qatar Airways which operates a hub and spoke network, linking over 90 international destinations form its base at Doha International Airport. Qatar Airways operates services across six continents.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Qatar is the government regulatory authority responsible for the country’s aviation sector as well as air navigation services.
Airports in Qatar
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Qatar Airways has named its forthcoming Saudi Arabian carrier "Al Maha Airways" but says it will not start operations until the first half of 2014 at the earliest. While Qatar has been unusually quiet on the operation and is not known to have ever stated a launch date, Saudi regulators had said it would launch before the end of 2013 as part of its liberalisation process. Qatar, along with a Gulf Air-linked group, was awarded in Dec-2012 a licence to operate domestic flights in Saudi Arabia as part of overdue reform in the aviation and tourism sector.
The Saudi government is right to rejuvenate the sector, but reform in early initiatives – the privatisation of Saudi Arabian Airlines – has proven slow. It now seems loosening the reigns on the domestic market is more challenging than imagined by regulator General Authority of Civil Aviation. GACA says it has had prolonged negotiations with government entities to reduce fuel prices for new carriers. Saudi Arabian Airlines receives fuel subsidies that distort the market and forced the exit in 2010 of start-up Sama. A cap on domestic fares makes some flights unprofitable even for Saudi. Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker told Reuters in reserved remarks he has an "undertaking" from Saudi authorities that these two "contentious issues" will be resolved. While domestic growth has lagged international growth – creating opportunity – there are, as Mr Baker said, "many challenges".
In CAPA’s report on Turkish Airlines’ 3Q2013 results, we highlighted that RASK growth failed to beat CASK growth for the first time this year and suggested management would want to demonstrate this was not the start of a new trend. The airline has now provided some reassurance on this.
Beyond this issue, CEO Temel Kotil used the recent Turkish Airlines’ investor day to reiterate his strategy of using the carrier’s Istanbul hub to attract global connecting traffic flows, leading to growth ahead of the market, albeit with an increased focus on frequencies rather than new destinations in future. This strategy has similarities with those of the Gulf carriers, but is also underpinned by the significant Turkish home market.
The Turkish market includes strong competition in the shape of LCC Pegasus, but the return to profitability of SunExpress, jointly owned by Turkish Airlines (THY) and Lufthansa, provides THY with another option for facing this competitive threat.
The opening day of the Dubai Airshow brought orders for over 350 widebody passenger aircraft from Gulf carriers. The size of the orders – 150 777Xs and a further 50 A380s for Emirates – gives a sense of the scale Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways are still to achieve. The three have already re-written aviation, from network construction to partnership strategy. While markets have benefitted, the three have caused consternation. No doubt that after this spate of orders, competitors are worried now that projected growth targets in abstract percentage terms have been translated into metal.
But there is some relief. While Emirates has now placed orders for 140 A380s – more than half of the programme total – the airline is most unlikely to operate 140 A380s at one time. There will be growth, but some of the A380s – and 777s and other aircraft ordered – will be for replacement since these orders cover deliveries well into the 2020s, when aircraft from the 2000s and 2010s will be due for replacement. What exactly the balance is between growth and replacement is still being defined within the airlines, and no doubt will be subject to revision. In this report we look at the current fleet and projected deliveries at Emirates, Etihad and Qatar as well as average fleet age to see where these new orders slot in.
On 12-Aug-2013 a historic milestone rolls around, when Etihad Airways turns 10 years old. The carrier, which proudly advertises itself as the fastest growing airline in the history of aviation, has helped usher in a revolution that has reshaped the global airline industry.
Etihad Airways was born as the national airline of the UAE via a Royal Decree issued in Jul-2003. Less than six months later it began operations, with just one aircraft. It launched itself in the midst of a major shake-up of the Middle East’s market and with a mission to support the development of Abu Dhabi as a business and leisure destination and help realise the transformation of the city into a global hub.
A decade on, Eithad Airways has achieved its objectives. Through a combination of rapid organic growth, aggressive partnership development and innovative equity acquisitions, the carrier has become one of the headline players not only in the Middle East, but in global aviation. Few carriers can boast such success in such a small amount of time. Fewer still can claim to be part of a revolution that is helping to change how the world connects.
Asian carriers continue to pour additional capacity into Myanmar, building on increases which were initially pursued in 2H2012 after the market quickly opened as economic sanctions which had been in place for two decades were lifted. The Myanmar international market will exceed 110,000 weekly international seats in Jan-2014, representing an increase of about 40% compared to Jan-2012 and almost 130% compared to Apr-2012, when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won landmark elections.
But so far the additional capacity has outstripped demand. International passenger traffic in Myanmar has grown by about 70% over the past two years – an impressive figure but not sufficient to keep up with the capacity increases. As a result load factors to and from Myanmar are significantly below the global average.
Nearly all of the 14 foreign carriers which were already serving Myanmar before Apr-2012 have seen load factors on their Myanmar routes drop over the last year. The nine foreign carriers which have launched and retained services to Myanmar since the market opened have also so far recorded lower than normal load factors – generally in the 50% to 70% range.
For all their success elsewhere, the Gulf carriers and Turkish Airlines are looking rather thin in China. This is not by their choosing. Emirates, Etihad, Qatar and Turkish have reached the limit of air rights and slots made available to them.
All are ready to expand, and Turkish has even said it has service to five cities ready to launch if approved. That is probably of little comfort to China. While the country wants a flourishing aviation market, it also wants its airlines to have a fair share. But this is not classic protectionism. The argument is Chinese carriers are still young and need time to gain experience before being on equal footing with peers.
Yet Etihad and Qatar are younger than China’s long-haul airlines. With a mindset change that favours liberalisation in China being unlikely in the medium term, the foreign carriers will have to find ways to stress their value and why they should receive more air rights. Partnerships are one such answer.