Gulf airlines 'extraordinarily' well-placed for 2009: CAPA
12/31/2008|10:35:00 AM|Etravelblackboardasia
Tuesday, December 30, 2008: Despite a dip in recent traffic figures, the Gulf carriers look very well placed to weather the economic storm and come out even stronger than before, say analysts in a recent report.

With double digit figure drops in traffic in the last few months, some have been sceptical about whether the Middle East’s stubborn focus on growth will survive the economic crisis.  But now it appears that the expansion strategies are beginning to reveal themselves.

“Both Emirates and Etihad - and to a lesser extent, Qatar Airways - have now developed their networks to a level where they can effectively exploit opportunities much more effectively than they could have, say, three years ago,” said the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) in a recent report.

“As a result they now enjoy an extensive permutation of new city pairs each time a gateway is added.”

Especially in relation to European hubs, where previously there have been heavily government protection but in recent days have seen liberalisation under open skies policies.

And while traffic numbers have been down, the premium sector has weathered the storm relatively better than some other carriers.

“Premium traffic has been attracted over the Gulf connections. This is a major strength, and, even as other regions have been suffering steep downturns in premium travel, the Middle East levels have held up well. These must inevitably decline, but the signs are that they will be much more resilient than other route groups,” CAPA adds.

The analysts continue to say that this combination is set to make the Middle Eastern carriers ones to watch in the near future – especially as European and Asian carriers look to scale back operations.

“Whatever happens in the remainder of the world, there are still strong indications that Middle East - and particularly Gulf-related - aviation will emerge from the current downturn as a major world force,” remarks CAPA.