Middle East low cost carriers look eastwards to expand European network

Low cost airlines well-placed to meet growing demand of new markets: OAG
2024-04-10
/
/ New Delhi
Middle East low cost carriers look eastwards to expand European network

Middle East based Low-Cost Carriers (LCCs) represent a 22 pc share of capacity in summer 2024

Low cost airlines in the Middle Eastern such as Pegasus Airlines in Turkiye or flydubai and Air Arabia in the UAE, are taking the lead against mainline carriers, whose share of overall airline capacity between the Middle East and Europe has fallen by 4 pc, says OAG.
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The Middle East and Europe, traditionally a market dominated by mainline carriers, has seen a  4 pc less airline capacity this summer compared to the year-ago period in 2023. However, for Middle East based Low-Cost Carriers (LCCs) who represent a 22 pc share of capacity in summer 2024, it has remained unchanged from summer 2023.

According to data compiled by OAG, European country markets which are closer to the Middle East benefiting from a higher share of LCC capacity. Almost  50 pc of capacity between UAE and the Russian Federation is operated by LCCs, who also have a strong presence on routes between the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel to Turkiye, again a function of their geographic proximity. In Italy, 22 pc of capacity operating to and from the UAE is provided by LCCs.

OAG data says that balance of LCC capacity is shifting fast. The top 10 LCC airlines operated 86 pc of LCC capacity between the Middle East and Europe this summer. However, this is just 19 pc of total capacity between these two regions, although LCCs do serve 99 of the 236 country pairs operated.  

OAG says that Turkish Pegasus Airlines is the largest LCC, operating 1.53m seats this summer, followed by flydubai with 1.28m seats. However, whilst Pegasus has reduced the number of routes it is serving, taking out seven routes net, flydubai is serving five more routes. Air Arabia added 75,000 more seats this Summer, adding two new routes.

Due to geography, and a preference for operating routes of up to four hours in flying time, the Top 10 routes operated by LCCs from the Middle East to Europe have Dubai-Moscow at the top. It is followed by Middle Eastern capitals to Istanbul and then Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Baku. Tel Aviv to Bucharest follows next.

According to OAG data, these routes all will have over 100,000 seats this summer, equivalent to just over 3,300 weekly seats. Not all of these routes are growing however, with Dubai-Moscow seeing capacity down year over year and the ongoing situation in Israel has impacted capacity between Tel Aviv and Istanbul and Antalya.

The statement adds that new routes are being introduced into the growth markets of Italy, Greece and East or Central European countries, primarily Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Baltic countries.  

In addition, flydubai is the first UAE based carrier to introduce direct flights to Basel, enabling passengers to travel to Dubai or connect via the Dubai hub conveniently to their network or further afield with their codeshare partner Emirates. Saudi low cost carrier Flynas is introducing weekly flights this summer to Berlin Brandenburg Airport and 2 flights per week to Brussels from Jeddah.  

OAG says that many of the new routes, particularly those introduced by Air Arabia, Flynas and flydubai do not face any competition which is a sweet spot for an LCC as there is less pressure on pricing.  

Johan Eidhagen, managing director of Wizz Air Abu Dhabi says that 18 pc of their travellers are Emiratis, the largest demographic segment. There is growing demand in both the Middle East and East or Central Europe and Middle Eastern carriers are well placed to meet this demand, introducing new routes with young fleets.

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