INVESTMENT IN THE GULF'S AVIATION sector in the next 10 years could rise to more than $200 billion, according to international analysts. This includes just under $120 billion due to be spent in the UAE alone on new aircraft, as well as another $40 billion which Qatar Airways has budgeted for 200 new planes, including the latest "super-jumbo" jets being produced by Airbus in France and Boeing in the US. Saudia, the Saudi national carrier, has already ordered 12 wide-bodied Boeing 777-300s, eight Airbus A330-300s and 15 A321s as part of a multibillion-dollar programme to modernise and expand its fleet and to increase flights to its domestic and regional destinations, as well as its routes to Europe.
Another $20 billion is targeted for airports and airport infrastructure in the UAE, where new global hubs are rapidly expanding in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Saudi Arabia has also announced a $20 billion programme to upgrade existing airports by 2020. Additional sums are being allocated for airports and aircraft in Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman, as well as Qatar and the UAE. Still other investment is planned to develop the region's own corporate business jet, spare parts manufacturing industries, aircraft maintenance and catering facilities, technical and training institutes. Passengers and businesses in the GCC are expected to benefit greatly from a wider range of choice, while a wealth of new job opportunities will become available in the coming decade.
Three Gulf airlines--Emirates of Dubai, Etihad of Abu Dhabi and Qatar Airways-will between them have the capacity to carry almost 200 million passengers a year, nearly four times as many as last year. Completion of Dubai's new five-runway mega-airport is will add another 70 million to capacity, in total about the same number of passengers as were handled last year by a combination of Heathrow, JFK, Narita, Changi and Frankfurt.
Even the the world's oldest and largest airline, British Airways (BA), has seen the writing on the wall; CEO Willie Walsh, who also serves as chairman of the Association of European Airlines, told an aviation conference in Brussels in September that Emirates and other airlines in the Gulf and Middle East were the "new competitive threat". Europe as a whole, he insisted, had to "be concerned about what's happening" and to take the threat seriously.
His company has already announced a $7.5 billion mega-merger with Iberia of Spain, a move that follows other massive airline mergers in the US, involving such former...