COVID-19: Middle East and Africa market update (w/e April 12)

Routes' latest update on how airlines and airports across the Middle East and Africa are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Welcome to Routes’ weekly look at how the Middle East and African aviation markets are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, helping you understand the schedule changes and manage the impact so we can navigate through this crisis together.

 The data is supplied by OAG using its OAG Schedules Analyser tool unless stated. Please note: the COVID-19 crisis remains fluid as airlines around the world continue to make dramatic capacity cuts. OAG has taken several steps to ensure the data is as accurate as possible. 

Middle East capacity

The total number of departure seats from and within the Middle East dropped by 8% last week (w/c Apr. 6) to 1.62 million seats. This is significantly down from the 4.88 million seats for the first week in March.

Saudi Arabia experienced the greatest fall, with 45,234 fewer seats in the week, with Qatar and Kuwait close behind. However, total departure seats from the UAE actually grew by 19,889 as Emirates added five select routes from Dubai International Airport (DXB) during the week.  



Middle East airlines

The slight rebound in the UAE seen this week is likely to be temporary, with the flights added only to return passengers to their home countries.

Emirates chairman Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said: “While we hope to resume full operations as soon as possible, we acknowledge the challenges faced by many cities in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. Our network can only be restored with the easing of travel restrictions, and we maintain close contact with all authorities for latest updates.”

Saudia currently offers the highest number of seats in the region, with the kingdom currently exeriencing fewer than 5,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.  Meanwhile Philippine Airlines has revealed plans to resume international flights to Saudi Arabia in May.

Africa capacity

Eastern Africa experienced the greatest fall within the continent last week, with total departure seats reduced by a further 26.7%. North African seats fell by 22.3% and Southern Africa by 12.5%. However in Central/Western Africa total available seats steadied, actually rising by 1.5% in the week. 

Overall total departure seats available to, from and within Africa fell by 14.9%.

Africa airlines

The infographic shows the top 10 airlines ranked by the number of departure seats from Africa during the w/c April 1, 2019, compared with the number of seats last week. Ethiopian Airlines, the continent’s largest carrier, continued to drastically reduce capacity, with a 61% fall in total seats during the period. Air Algerie reduced its total capacity by 89%, while easyJet grounded all flights in Africa.

However, Tunisair and Air Peace were among the carriers adding capacity during the week, with the latter being the major contributor to overall growth in the Western/Central region.

Photo credit: Nigel Howarth/Aviation Week