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Middle East aviation fleet to double in next decade

A Qatar Airways flight attendant on board an A350 at the Dubai Airshow. The airline has a further 184 of the model due Airbus SAS
A Qatar Airways flight attendant on board an A350 at the Dubai Airshow. The airline has a further 184 of the model due
  • 2,200 planes expected
  • Growth rate more than 4%
  • Driven by narrowbody models

The number of aeroplanes operated by commercial airlines across the Middle East will grow by more than half to 2,200 over the next 10 years, according to a report from Oliver Wyman, the consultants.

The size of the Middle East aviation fleet is projected to increase at an annual rate of 4.2 percent from 2024 to 2034, outstripping growth rates in most parts of the world, including Africa (2.3 percent), Latin America (1.9 percent), North America (1.8 percent), and Western Europe (1 percent). 

“Many factors are contributing to this growth, including the region’s central location, the strength of the well-established players in the market, and the addition of new players,” said André Martins, partner and head of transportation and services for India, the Middle East and Africa at Oliver Wyman.



Airbus, one of two major suppliers of passenger aircraft globally, forecast that commercial aircraft services in the Middle East market will more than double in value by 2042. It predicted in its latest Global Services Forecast that the market will grow to $28 billion from $12 billion today, surpassing the global average growth of 4 percent.

Together, both studies indicate that Middle East carriers are likely to retain and even increase their weight in sales and maintenance of aircraft globally over the next decade and more.

Airbus expects the market for maintenance to increase from $10 billion to $23 billion. Enhancements and modernisation are set to register the biggest average annual growth (5.5 percent) across categories between 2023 and 2042, from $1.3 billion to $3.6 billion, driven specifically by cabin and system upgrades as part of fleet modernisation.

Wyman predicted that growth in sales will be driven primarily by single-aisle “narrowbody” aircraft, which will climb from 40 percent to 47 percent of the fleet over the decade.

Widebodies, traditionally the aircraft of choice among aviation bosses in the Middle East, will decrease from 56 percent to 50 percent, the report said.

Narrowbody aircraft are smaller and often used to operate short-haul international flights and domestic routes. 

They have more efficient engines and aerodynamics that enable them to fly shorter distances with less fuel consumption. This makes them ideal for airlines operating on high-frequency, low-cost routes such as domestic and regional flights.

In November last year Emirates, one of the UAE’s two flag carriers, ordered 95 new aircraft, while Flydubai, a low-cost carrier, announced the biggest change in its 15-year existence, with an order for 30 widebody Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. 

FlyNas, Saudi Arabia’s budget airline, placed an order for 30 more A320 planes in June. 

Qatar Airways finally resolved its difference with Airbus and started accepting new A350s in March last year, and some 184 aircraft remain to be delivered.

In March last year Riyadh Air was unveiled with an order of up to 72 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft – 39 confirmed planes with an option to acquire an additional 33.

Airbus forecast that the market for training and operations will double by 2042, reaching $1.6 billion.

It also said that a further 208,000 highly skilled professionals will be needed in the Middle East over the next 20 years, comprising 56,000 new pilots, 52,000 new technicians and 100,000 new cabin crew members.

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