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Thu 8 Jan 2009 06:53 AM

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Mideast airlines set for five-year growth - survey

Region's carriers to buck general downturn, according to poll of 400 global aviation execs.

The Middle East’s aviation industry will buck the general sector malaise and perform strongly during the next five years, a survey has claimed.

More than 90 percent of respondents to a questionnaire on global aviation believe the economic downturn will have little impact on airlines in this region.

The survey, carried out by event organiser Terrapinn Middle East, also revealed that 50 percent of those questioned believe the government will support continued growth in the Middle East. Meanwhile, 43.5 percent and 37 percent of respondents said strong regional economies and consumer’s spending power respectively will contribute.

Elsewhere, 53 percent believe passenger growth in the Middle East will help support the industry’s development. Fewer respondents said the Indian Subcontinent, Asia and then Europe will also help boost this region’s aviation market.

Terrapinn, which is organising the 2nd Middle East Aviation Outlook Summit in Abu Dhabi, polled 400 aviation executives from across the globe.  

Last October, the UAE government announced its 2009 budget for aviation is $11.5 billion – it’s largest in almost four decades, according to Terrapinn. The capital will be invested in infrastructure projects and airport expansion, such as the $1.3 billion concourse development at Dubai International Airport. It will also help finance the creation of new hubs.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia confirmed this month that it is investing $400 billion in aviation-related mega-projects during the next five years.

On the downside, 65 percent of respondents believe the biggest obstacle to Middle East aviation growth is volatile fuel prices, followed by operational efficiency (25.4 percent). Government policy and recruiting pilots were also mentioned by 23.8 percent and 20.6 percent respectively of those quizzed.   Low-cost carriers are expected to provide stiff competition to regional legacy airlines, according to 60 percent, while 64 percent believe the Middle East needs more airport capacity.

Hifazat Ahmad, general manager of Terrapinn Middle East, said: “There will be challenges ahead and the industry is already forecasting risks and opportunities in one of the most distressed global financial environments in decades.”

The 2nd Middle East Aviation Outlook Summit will take place from Mar. 2-5 at Beach Rotana Towers in Abu Dhabi. Industry representatives from several airlines, including Etihad Airways, Gulf Air and Qatar Airways, are expected to attend.

Figures from Abu Dhabi Airports Company and Oman Airports Management Company will also be present.

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