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Middle East aviation on the cusp of a much-needed recovery

The Middle East aviation industry may see a turnaround in the next two to three years with negative impacts of Covid-19 being mitigated and economy recovering faster than expected in the region, particularly in GCC countries.

The region has also been a leader in restoring confident passenger travel through multi-faceted initiatives that aid international travel recovery.

Researcher Oliver Wyman expects a slow recovery of the long-haul to long-haul connecting model and an increase of low-cost carrier (LCC) regional traffic as well.

Middle East passenger traffic and the region’s commercial fleet are projected to more than double over a 20-year forecast period, aerospace giant Boeing said at a recent media event.

Middle East commercial jet and services market will be valued at more than $1.4tn, aerospace giant Boeing said in a forecast of 20-year demand for commercial airplanes and services.

In its 2021 Commercial Market Outlook (CMO), the Chicago-based Boeing said airlines in the Middle East will require 3,000 new airplanes valued at $700bn and aftermarket services such as maintenance and repair worth $740bn, with the region positioned to capitalise on the recovery of regional and international travel and cargo demand.

In the Middle East, commercial fleet is expected to more than double to serve passenger and cargo demand and the projected wide-body deliveries will be the highest proportion of any region at 44%.

“The Middle East region’s role as a global connecting hub continues to be important for developing markets to and from Southeast Asia, China and Africa,” said Randy Heisey, Boeing managing director (Commercial Marketing) for the Middle East at a virtual media event.

Air freight represents an ongoing area of opportunity for Middle East airlines, with the freighter fleet projected to nearly double from 80 airplanes in 2019 to 150 by 2040. Notably, air cargo traffic flown by Middle East carriers has increased since 2020 by nearly 20%, with two of the world’s top-five cargo carriers based in the region, Boeing said.

That said, many challenges need to be addressed as the industry recovers, points out André Martins, partner, Oliver Wyman.

In the next two to three years, it will be particularly relevant to revamp the commercial offer to bring back air traffic, address production and supply chain issues from original equipment manufacturer (OEMs) and key suppliers, whilst also addressing pilot shortages and debt repayments.

In parallel, Martins noted the industry needs to focus on doubling down the efforts on digital and automation whilst addressing key medium-long term challenges, particularly related to environmental emissions, more strict regulations on CO2 and the need to ensure long term sustainability.

Clearly, the Middle East region’s aviation industry is on the cusp of a much-needed recovery. Re-establishing air connectivity will undoubtedly energise the economic recovery from Covid-19.

Therefore, governments in the Middle East must develop re-start plans, post Covid-19, to safely re-link their citizens, residents, businesses and economies to global markets when their epidemiological situation permits.

Source: Civil Aviation Authority – Qatar