Glory Days – is the Gulf’s airline industry in decline?

November 14, 2017 | Author: Nick Maynard

In “Glory Days,” Bruce Springsteen harks back to the days of his youth, when he and his friends shared an air of invincibility. As we approach the 2017 Dubai Airshow, some might ponder whether the Gulf carriers are also longing for a return to their own Glory Days.

I’ve been in the Gulf region for 17 years, during which I’ve attended almost all of the Dubai Airshow’s. It’s hard to overstate how much has changed with the Big Three regional carriers during this time. When I arrived in Dubai in March 2000, Etihad didn’t even exist (it started operations in November 2003); Qatar Airways operated a handful of aircraft – it now operates 199 to more than 150 destinations; and Emirates was about to place its first A380 order. It will receive its 100th in early November!

But as the aerospace industry returns to Dubai for the latest edition of the show, there are a number of factors to suggest the glory days of mega aircraft orders are unlikely to be repeated.

Low oil prices are driving down demand. Regional political pressures are coupled with the U.S. and European anti-Gulf carrier lobbying campaigns. Etihad Airways’ decided to pull the plug on partners Alitalia and Air Berlin, and Emirates decided to defer deliveries of some incoming Airbus A380s. All of these factors and more are raising questions over the long-term viability of the region’s super carriers.

Yet to start drafting their obituaries shows a lack of understanding of the region and the airlines themselves. While there are certainly new and evolving challenges facing Middle Eastern airlines, I would argue the industry is in a state of transition – not decline.

Emirates is working on integration with sister airline FlyDubai, while Etihad awaits the arrival of its new CEO and Qatar Airways is redeploying their capacity and expanding to new destinations in order to overcome political headwinds. As for mega orders, records may not be broken this year, yet there remains more than 565 world-class aircraft on order. Emirates alone has firm orders in place for 17 additional A380s, and 150 777Xs. Etihad is awaiting delivery of 62 A350s, 54 more 787s and 25 777Xs. Qatar Airways will receive 60 777Xs, 30 787s and has unfilled orders from Airbus for 30 A320neos, 61 A350 and two A380s. It would seem rather churlish to cite a lack of new orders as a sign of decline.

For Honeywell, this sizeable pipeline reflects an exciting opportunity to deliver the very latest in aircraft technology. A significant source of demand for Honeywell’s line-fit technologies come from the region’s leading carriers, including Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. Each have been early adopters of Honeywell’s aerospace technologies.

Emirates worked closely with Honeywell on the development of SmartRunway® / SmartLanding®. A software upgrade to the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System, SmartRunway® / SmartLanding® promotes stable approaches and runway safety mitigating the risk of runway incursions and excursions.

Qatar Airways was one of the first global carriers to install Inmarsat’s market-leading inflight broadband service, GX Aviation. GX Aviation is exclusively powered by Honeywell’s JetWave hardware and will offer passengers flying on more than 130 Qatar Airways aircraft home-equivalent connectivity. And in 2016 Etihad selected Honeywell’s Aviaso fuel efficiency software to help the airline more accurately assess its fuel efficiency and generate additional savings.

Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad have entered a new stage in their development. Whilst some of the competition to break new route and order records might be tempered for now, the underlying mission of the airlines remains undiminished – and that is to act as a tool for the economic growth and diversification of Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai by flying some of the most technologically advanced and capable aircraft in the world.

Whilst the 2017 Dubai Airshow might not reflect the “Glory Days” of previous years (at least in terms of the order book), when it comes to innovation you might discover the big three are still “Tougher than the rest!”

Nick Maynard

Nick Maynard

Marketing Communications Manager