ANALYSIS: Airports in the Middle East - The Biggest and Fastest Growing Gateways

Ahead of this year's World Routes forum, Routesonline is providing another look at our series of articles on the leading airlines and airports and most used aircraft types across regions of the world last year. Here we look closely at the airports of the Middle East and highlight the region's top performers.

Ahead of this year's World Routes forum, Routesonline is providing another look at our series of articles on the leading airlines and airports and most used aircraft types across regions of the world last year.  Here we look closely at the airports of the Middle East and highlight the region's top performers.

​ The data is all supplied by OAG Aviation using its OAG Schedules Analyser tool.

Scheduled Air Capacity From the Middle East (2005 - 2014)

Our analysis of published schedules for the past ten years shows that air capacity within and from the Middle East has risen from 90,896,776 available seats in 2005 to 193,599,965 available seats in 2014.  This represents a growth of 113.0 per cent across the period, an average annual increase of 12.6 per cent.  In the past year capacity increased 10.9 per cent.

Top Ten Airports in the Middle East Market (2014)

The rise of Dubai International Airport has seen it develop from a small airfield handling aircraft up to the size of the venerable Douglas DC-3 Dakota in 1960 to become the world’s largest international airport and home to the largest Airbus A380 operation across the globe in just 55 years. The airport dominates capacity within and from the Middle East with a 23.3 per cent share of departure seats in 2014: it is almost three times the size of its closest rival and handles a similar capacity in the region as the second, third and fourth largest airports together.

King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia is the second largest facility in the region based on departure capacity within and from the Middle East with a 9.6 per cent share, just ahead of the new Hamad International Airport (its total includes the operation of the old Doha International Airport) in Doha, Qatar, also with a 9.6 per cent share.

King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (7.0 per cent share) and Abu Dhabi International Airport in the UAE (6.8 per cent share) are the fourth and fifth largest facilities in the Middle East by departure capacity. Bahrain International Airport, host of this year’s inaugural Routes Middle East and Africa forum is the eighth largest facility in the region having seen a return to capacity growth in 2014 after the restructuring of Gulf Air and collapse of Bahrain Air in previous years.

Fastest Growing Airports in the Middle East Market (2010-2014)

Capacity data in the region over the past five year period highlights how the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, has returned to the global network map, how Saudi Arabia remains a growing market in the Middle East and how despite their size the major hub airports in the region are showing sustained capacity development, growing by around a half across the five year period.

After significant disruption caused by the Gulf War and security and safety issues across Iraq, Baghdad International Airport has again emerged as a key point in the region’s aviation sector. It is the region’s fastest growing airport over the five year analysis period with departure seats more than doubling from 651,332 in 2010 to 1,678,163 in 2014 (a 157.7 per cent increase) and has risen from being the 25th largest airport in the region to 18th largest by capacity.

The second and third fastest growing airports in the Middle East between 2010 and 2014 were in Saudi Arabia with Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz Airport in Medinah, Saudi Arabia more than doubling departure seats over the five years (up 118.9 per cent) and Abha Regional Airport seeing a notable 76.4 per cent rise in departure capacity.

Notable growth has also been recorded at the region’s big hubs: Abu Dhabi International Airport, UAE (up 65.6 per cent), Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar (up 58.9 per cent); King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (up 55.9 per cent) and Dubai International Airport, UAE (up 44.2 per cent).

Data comparison between 2013 and 2014 shows a strong capacity growth trend among the top ten airports in the region by capacity. All of the top ten largest airports in the area reported a growth in departure seats within and from the Middle East in 2014 with only one airport in the top 20 actually seeing a reduction in capacity during the period (Shahid Hashemi Nejad Airport in Mashhad, Iran) and then it was only a modest 1.4 per cent fall.

Growth from Etihad Airways and its equity alliance partner Jet Airways of India helped Abu Dhabi International Airport in the UAE report the highest annual capacity growth among the region’s top ten airports between 2013 and 2014 with a 19.6 per cent rise in departure seats. This was just ahead of King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which reported an 18.1 per cent rise across the same period.

Elsewhere double-digit capacity rises were recorded by King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia (up 13.3 per cent between 2013 and 2014), Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar (up 11.5 per cent), Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel (up 11.3 per cent) and Kuwait International Airport (up 10.2 per cent).

Looking at the wider top twenty airports in the region it was Baghdad International Airport which recorded the largest year-on-year capacity growth between 2013 and 2014 with a massive rise of 102.8 per cent, thanks to the operations of the ‘new’ Iraqi Airways.

Notable growth was also recorded by Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz Airport in Medinah, Saudi Arabia (up 30.7 per cent), while double-digit capacity rises were seen at the two airports serving the Iranian city of Tehran: Imam Khomeini International Airport (up 15.4 per cent) and Mehrabad International Airport (up 13.3 per cent), as well as Abha Regional Airport in the Asir Province of Saudi Arabia (up 10.9 per cent).

Scheduled Middle East Capacity by Aircraft Type

The chart below shows which aircraft types were most prevalent in the Middle East market during 2014. The schedule data shows that although Airbus A320 Family member aircraft hold the strongest position in the region the networks of many of its larger airlines and their hub models mean that widebodied aircraft play a more notable role than in other parts of the world.

The Airbus A320 (320) is the most widely used aircraft type in this market with a 23.5 per cent share of available seats with overall network capacity increasing by 9.3 per cent between 2013 and 2014 to just over 45 million departure seats.

The second most utilised aircraft type in this market is the older Boeing 777-300ER (77W) with an 11.8 per cent share, up 19.0 per cent in 2014, while the third most widely operated type by network capacity is the Airbus A321 (321) with a 7.1 per cent share, up 10.7 per cent, followed by the Boeing 737-800 (73H) with a 5.8 per cent share, up 7.8 per cent.

The biggest rise in annual capacity among the top ten aircraft types in the Middle East was recorded by the Airbus A380 (388) with a 51.2 per cent rise in available seats in 2014 versus 2013 as UAE carrier Emirates Airlines has boosted its fleet of the type and deployed them on more routes from Dubai International Airport.

Only two of the ten aircraft types most prevalent in the Middle East witnessed a decline in usage in 2014 versus 2013. These were recorded by the Fokker 100 (100) with a fall of 10.0 per cent versus 2013 and the Boeing 777-200 (772) with a decline in seats of 9.6 per cent.

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