By Andy Sambidge
Latest industry data shows Middle East carriers forecast to add 22,000 extra seats per day
The Middle East will see the strongest growth of any global region in available long-haul airline seats in September, adding 22,000 extra seats per day, according to the latest statistics from OAG.
The OAG Frequency and Capacity Trend Statistics report for September reveals an expected five percent growth in available seats to and from the Middle East, compared to September 2011.
It added that a total of 13.1 million seats are anticipated to be up for grabs in the month. Meanwhile, flight operations to and from the region are expected to increase by four percent to 59,771.
Rob Shaw, director of analytics at OAG, said: "Dubai is expected to lead all major global hubs in September in terms of growth, with an eight percent increase in flights and a 12 percent increase in seats, a disparity partly reflecting Emirates' adoption of the Airbus A380."
He added that Abu Dhabi will remain the fastest growing hub in the Middle East, with a 16 percent increase in seat capacity to 1,661,512 compared to September 2011 while Doha and Riyadh will also see strong growth in seat capacity of 10 percent and five percent respectively.
"The Middle East remains at the vanguard of long-haul air traffic growth globally. While this expansion in part reflects the ambitious growth targets of the 'superconnector' airlines - Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways - airport infrastructure investments across the region continue to make the Middle East attractive to other long-haul carriers," he said.
In contrast to the region's long-haul growth, air traffic within the Middle East is expected to decrease in September, with a three percent drop in both flights and seats.
Low-cost carriers are expected to increase their share of intra-Middle Eastern seat capacity to 15 percent, an increase of 12 percent over September 2011.
Budget flights in the region are expected to grow by 16 percent in the month, with 856 extra flights compared to the same period in 2011.
Shaw said: "LCCs are increasing their market share in the Middle East. Not only are they achieving robust growth within regional flights and seats, but low-cost operations are also becoming more prominent in long-haul traffic.
"In September, LCCs are expected to achieve 18 percent growth in flights and seats to and from the Middle East compared to 2011, equivalent to 1,048 extra flights and 182,139 additional seats."
While the Middle East comes top in many key air traffic metrics today, OAG data also reveals the fast-gathering strength of Asia Pacific as tomorrow's air traffic titan.
According to Shaw, Asia Pacific's rapid economic development is clearly indicated by growth in the area's intra-regional air traffic. Asia Pacific remains the world's largest market for regional air travel in terms of seat numbers.
He added: "Only the Middle East and Asia Pacific will see increases in intra-regional flights and seats in September compared to 2011.
"However, while the Middle East is expected to show a healthy 16 percent growth in seats - an extra 145,000 - Asia Pacific will add 32 percent more seats in the month. That's an additional 5.8 million."
Worldwide, scheduled airline flights are expected to decrease by 0.4 percent in September versus September 2011 although seat capacity will be two percent higher.