The Middle East's biggest air routes: Intra-regional city pairs dominate


Jeddah-Riyadh and Dubai-Doha are by far the busiest routes to, from or within the Middle East, but there are some changes ahead. A spike in capacity on the Dubai-London Heathrow route will see it take third place, while major cities linked with Cairo will see some seasonal reductions in coming months, namely Jeddah, Riyadh and Kuwait. More seats are being added from Dubai to the key Indian cities of Delhi and Mumbai, which will see them rise up the rankings.

  • Jeddah-Riyadh and Dubai-Doha are the busiest routes in the Middle East.
  • Dubai-London Heathrow route will become the third busiest route in the region due to increased capacity.
  • Seasonal reductions in capacity are expected on routes linking major cities with Cairo, including Jeddah, Riyadh, and Kuwait.
  • More seats are being added on Dubai-Delhi and Dubai-Mumbai routes, which will increase their rankings.
  • Dubai features in 12 out of the top 20 city pairs in the Middle East, while Doha and Abu Dhabi also have a presence.
  • Dubai-London Heathrow is the busiest route outside the region, followed by Dubai-Mumbai, Dubai-Karachi, Dubai-Delhi, and Dubai-Bangkok.

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Dubai features in 12 of the region's top 20 city pairs, including seven of the ten leading routes by seats per week. Doha features twice (to Dubai and Bahrain), while Abu Dhabi makes the list in 20th position, to Muscat. The Saudi gateways Jeddah and Riyadh feature four and three times, respectively.

The biggest route outside the region is Dubai-London Heathrow (ranking fifth; see Appendix), followed by Dubai-Mumbai (8th), Dubai-Karachi (10th), Dubai-Delhi (11th) and Dubai-Bangkok (15th).

Interestingly, the remaining 15 city pairs in the top flight are all within the region.

Top 20 routes to/from/within the Middle East by seats (per week): 12-Sep-2011 vs 16-Jan-2012

Origin Destination Rank Weekly seats
Jeddah Riyadh 1 1 77,443 72,464
Dubai Doha 2 2 68,142 68,618
Cairo Jeddah 3 10 55,656 30,540
Kuwait 4 4 49,724 46,856
Dubai London Heathrow 5 3 47,976 50,888
Dubai Bahrain 6 5 39,460 42,780
Doha Bahrain 7 7 36,412 37,481
Dubai Mumbai 8 6 35,058 37,578
Dubai Muscat 9 9 30,728 33,884
Dubai Karachi 10 11 30,180 30,062
Dubai Delhi 11 8 28,578 34,558
Dubai Riyadh 12 15 27,830 26,125
Cairo Riyadh 13 40 27,563 16,482
Mashad Tehran Mehrabad 14 13 27,064 27,064
Dubai Bangkok Suvarnabhumi 15 14 26,796 26,796
Jeddah Dammam 16 17 25,301 23,860
Dubai Tehran Imam Khomeini 17 16 24,964 25,934
Dubai Jeddah 18 12 24,624 27,410
Cairo Kuwait 19 35 21,021 17,142
Muscat Abu Dhabi 20 32 20,106 17,200

In terms of passenger traffic, Dubai Airport leads the way, handling some 4.7 million passengers in Jul-2011. Of the key Gulf hubs, growth rates have been led by Doha for the early part of 2011, though Abu Dhabi has surged ahead in recent months, according to CAPA's Airport Traffic Comparison Tool.

Passenger traffic (mill) comparison for Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai airports: Sep-09 to Sep-11

Passenger traffic growth (% change y-o-y) comparison for Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai airports: Sep-09 to Sep-11


Dubai International Airport to London Heathrow Airport capacity (seats per week, one way): 04-Jul-2011 to 04-Mar-2012

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