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Wed 17 Dec 2008 06:04 AM

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57% call for airlines to improve to keep customers

Arabian Business poll also reveals that fare pricing is single biggest factor in choosing flight.

Arabian Business readers have delivered their verdict on the Gulf's airlines and have called for improvements to all aspects of their service to retain customers in 2009.

Middle East carriers are set for a turbulent year, with the local industry’s 2008 losses expected to double in 2009 amid the worst revenue environment for 50 years.

Aviation body IATA has predicted $2.5 billion losses next year for the global airline industry – the biggest drop in revenue since 1958.

The organisation also said Gulf carriers will report $200 million losses next year as the economic downturn and lower passenger demand take effect.

And in our online poll, hundreds of respondents said airlines needed to lower their fares and improve their customer service both on and off the aircraft.

Of those, 39 percent of people said that lower fares were the key, especially since the oil price has plummeted from record highs of $147 in July to its current price of less than $50.

Four percent of respondents said customer service was important to them when deciding which airline to choose next year but less than one percent considered delays to flights a major problem in the Gulf region.

But 57 percent of respondents said airlines needed to address a combination of the three problems before they pledged their allegiance to any airline in 2009.

Global passenger traffic is expected to decline three percent in 2009 following a 2 percent growth this year – the first drop in demand since 2001 – while yields will also fall three percent.

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