Travel Hot Spot – The Middle East

The recent screaming headlines tell the story, and here are just a few examples:

  • Growth Spurt for Middle Eastern Carriers – New York Times
  • Get Ready for Middle East Airline Domination – Fortune
  • Will Middle Eastern Carriers Crush the U.S. Airlines? – Motely Fool

So what are these airlines that are gaining so much attention?

Qatar flight attendants – stuck in the past?

Big Three Middle Eastern Airlines

The Big Three carriers of the Middle East are all expanding, and doing well (in some cases, very well). They are:

  • Emirates – wholly owned by the government of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates
  • Etihad – Established by royal decree, headquartered in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates
  • Qatar Airways – state owned, based in Doha, Qatar

As Fortune notes, collectively the carriers have ordered more than 350 wide-body jets worth more than $150 billion. A warning of sorts to U.S. airlines, perhaps, that they may not own all the international routes they think they do.

World’s most expensive airport taxis

New Competition for U.S. Airlines

Where are these Middle Eastern airlines flying? As FareCompare reported earlier this month, Qatar will debut new flights from Dallas to the Middle East and from Scotland to the Middle East beginning next summer. This past October, Emirates began flights from New York to Milan and these flights are of particular note because this marks the first time the carrier bypassed its Dubai base in favor of a U.S.-Europe non-stop.

Destination Dubai

Emirates in particular has helped embed Dubai in international travelers’ consciousness – along with the government that turned the city state into what’s been dubbed the new world’s top travel spot. As a recent article put it, tourists are drawn to its “sandy beaches, amazing waterparks, and endless entertainment, international cuisine and huge shopping malls” one of which includes an indoor ski resort. Not everyone is onboard, though; one critic recently referred to Dubai as an “oasis of conspicuous consumerism.” Either way, the number visitors is on the rise.

What This Means for Passengers

In general, competition is a good thing for airfare prices. When more carriers compete on routes, prices usually come down. It will be interesting to see what happens with demand in the coming months – from both tourists and business travelers – in the face of increased airline options.


Published: December 10, 2013