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Middle East is leading airline industry global recovery

Airlines in the Middle East are set to make major advances in the global airline market, according to …

Airlines in the Middle East are set to make major advances in the global airline market, according to Dr Ahmed bin Saif Al Nahyan, chairman of Etihad Airways, the new national carrier of the UAE.

Dr Ahmed, a former captain on Airbus and Boeing aircraft, says the current economic upswing in Arabian economies has fuelled the development of the region`s airline sector.

He said: While the global airline sector has levelled out following the effects of September 11, SARS and the invasion of Iraq, we are seeing significant bouyancy in the Middle East economy.

“This is reflected in growth as high as 22 per cent in the regional airline sector over recent months. “

He points to the creation of Etihad Airways as a direct response to demands for increased capacity to serve the growing regional and international market.

These are prosperous economic times in Arabian economies. We seized the opportunity to position Etihad to take advantage of the increased international investment that companies are making in the Middle East,” explains Dr Ahmed.

The government initiatives to drive inbound tourism in the UAE will also have a positive effect on the success of Etihad, as well as airlines that have been created to serve the budget air travel market.

In contrast to the low-cost airlines, Etihad is focusing on offering a product that appeals to travellers that want a premium service, at a competitive international price.

Dr Ahmed continued: Etihad is in this business to be a viable commercial enterprise. The differentiating factor that sets us apart from our competitors will centre around service.

“We are breaking with standard airline practice to give our guests what they tell us they want – to be treated as special. Our goal is to provide a more comfortable and generally more pleasing airline experience than is currently on offer in the region.

Key to the Etihad promise is the move away from the traditional classes, as it becomes the first regional airline to take the concept of premium economy and rework it for the regional marketplace.

Etihad refers to passengers as guests and has guest zones rather than fare classes. The three zones – Diamond, Pearl, and Coral – do not correspond directly to first, business, and economy classes.

At check-in, guests will be dealt with by a personal attendant and escorted to the departure lounge until the flight is ready to board. Enhanced ground services at Abu Dhabi International Airport will be available later this year.

“Each will provide a premium service compared to competitors, with quality and personal attention being the common factor. For the Diamond and Pearl Zones, we will provide seamless and stress-free travel – in fact, for business travellers, we provide an office in the sky,” explained Dr Ahmed.