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Middle East trends

Middle East air travel is all set to take off

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Jan 02, 2008

(TVLW) - As Bahrain Air, the baby of the Middle East's aviation industry prepares for take-off, one of its main rivals reckons the sector is poised for significant, sustained growth.

Currently accounting for eight per cent of the global air transport industry, Middle East-based airlines are collectively growing at 10 per cent annually, double the global average of five per cent, according to the Arab Air Carriers Organisation's (AACO) latest report.

Adel Ali, the chief executive officer of Air Arabia, the first and largest low-cost carrier in the region, said: "The Middle East is home to the youngest fleet in the world, with a total of more than 600 aircraft, and has the greatest number of aircraft on order anywhere in the world.

"From the Gulf to the Levant, the sector is also experiencing unprecedented demand, with load factors averaging nearly 80 per cent.

"The region is currently experiencing enormous economic growth and there is a strong correlation between such growth and increased passenger traffic. Consider the demographics of the region, where 100 million people are under the age of 24 and millions more are expatriates, and it becomes clear that air travel will increasingly be seen as a necessity rather than a luxury.

"Indeed, between now and 2020, the Middle East is forecast to lead world passenger traffic growth, with current travel demand up 18 per cent.

"Air Arabia is experiencing record growth - in passenger numbers, aircraft utilisation and profits - and setting the market benchmark.

"We recently placed an order for up to 49 additional aircraft, and together with our peers in the industry, we will continue to focus on meeting the needs of this vibrant, diverse region as we enter an exciting new phase in its history."

Air Arabia started operations in October, 2003, and currently operates a fleet of 11 aircraft, serving 37 destinations across the Middle East, North Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia through its main hub in Sharjah, UAE.

Bahrain Air will be the first privately-owned premium low-priced carrier in the kingdom and will shortly start operations using a fleet of modern Airbus A320s.

It will initially fly on Bahrain, Dubai, Mashhad, Beirut and Alexandria routes and its managing director, Ibrahim Abdulla Al Hamer once sat on the founding committee of Air Arabia.

"We will be the talk of the town," he recently told GulfWeekly. "We will be customer-oriented, safe and comfortable. We will also be efficient and very competitive."

Bahrain Air, being the second national carrier, will also enjoy airline traffic rights secured by the government which is an added economic advantage.

Middle East air travel is all set to take off

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