British Airways enhances its Gulf drive

From the start of the forthcoming winter schedule, British Airways is to introduce new non-stop flights from London Heathrow to both Doha, Qatar and Muscat, Oman. Both destinations are already part of the airline’s network but are currently served with one-stop direct flight routings via Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

In a move to enhance its competitiveness in serving point-to-point flows into the Middle East and connection options across its strong UK and European network, British Airways (BA) is to boost its flight offering into the Gulf markets of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from its London Heathrow Airport hub this winter.

From the start of the forthcoming winter schedule, BA is to introduce new non-stop flights to both Doha, Qatar and Muscat, Oman. Both destinations are already part of the airline’s network but are currently served with one-stop direct flight routings via Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.  These changes will reduce journey time to and from both Doha and Muscat by around two hours.

Under its revised schedule, BA will continue to offer daily flights between Heathrow and Bahrain (BA124/125) and Abu Dhabi (BA072/073), the latter being served using a Boeing 787-9. The new daily non-stop flight to Doha (BA122/123) and five times weekly Muscat link (BA079/080) will commence from October 30, 2016 and will be flown using Boeing 777-200ERs  Both flights will operate overnight outbound from London and during the morning inbound from the Gulf.

The new links will enhance the oneworld offer in the London – Doha market, supporting the existing activities of Qatar Airways, while it will offer stronger competition with Oman Air on London – Muscat. The Gulf carrier has just introduced a second daily flight on the route having paid a record amount for an additional early morning slot pair at the capacity constrained London Heathrow to facilitate its growth.

Annual passenger data from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) shows that the number of passengers flying between London Heathrow and these four Gulf markets reached a record level last year, albeit our analysis highlights how destination demand has changed as a result of the dramatic rise of the Gulf airlines and increasing passengers transiting via the Middle East as capacity has grown in specific markets.

The CAA figures show that in 2000 almost 800,000 passengers were flying between London Heathrow and Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Doha and Muscat.  Last year that number had grown to almost 2.4 million, an average annual rise of 13.1 percent, many of which were simply transferring to other destinations.

Over that period the growing importance of Abu Dhabi and Doha as connecting points is clear to see.  Back in 2000 passenger flows from London Heathrow, then the world’s largest international gateway, was pretty balanced across the four markets with Abu Dhabi holding a 22.6 percent share, Bahrain a 27.6 percent share, Doha a 26.9 percent share and Muscat 22.9 percent. 

Moving forward 15 years and with Dubai International Airport, now the world’s largest international airport, due to the rise of Emirates Airline, the impact of hub carriers Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways at Abu Dhabi and Doha have radically changed the flows.  Last year Doha and Abu Dhabi had grown their share among these destinations to/from London Heathrow to 45.2 percent and 35.3 percent, respectively.  In the process Bahrain’s share had slipped to just 11.9 percent and Muscat to just 7.6 percent.

Interestingly, when you compare 2000 and 2015 data, passenger numbers between London Heathrow and Muscat have fallen 2.1 percent. Traffic from the UK hub to/from Bahrain increased 28.6 percent following growth in the 2000s, before a subsequent decline through the 2010s.  Meanwhile, over the same period traffic between London Heathrow and Abu Dhabi and London Heathrow and Doha more than quadrupled, up 364.5 percent and 398.5 percent, respectively.

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