CNN explores how the Middle East’s aviation industry is growing post-pandemic

(Left to right) Marketplace Middle East-Middle East Aviation-Akbar Al Baker; Marketplace Middle East-Middle East Aviation-Rana Nawas and Marketplace Middle East-Middle East Aviation-Yehia Zakaria.

In the latest episode of Marketplace Middle East, CNN’s Eleni Giokos highlights the aviation industry and the sector’s post-pandemic recovery.

Rana Nawas, Partner – Transportation & Services at Oliver Wyman discusses how the aviation industry is bouncing back, “Global aviation is almost at pre-Covid levels, a lot of passenger demand climbing back up. And what we’re seeing with passengers is very interesting behaviour, you can call it ‘revenge travel’ post-Covid.”

Nawas notes that the Middle East in particular will see a strong recovery, “Our recent global forecast estimates that the fleet in the Middle East will grow at about 5.1% per year over the coming ten years, versus a global average of 2.9%.”

However this rapid growth and the aftermath from lockdowns has led to a staffing shortage. Nawas explains,  “In the Middle East alone we estimate that we’re going to be 18,000 pilots short by 2032. And it’s not just pilots that we’re short on, it’s general aviation staff.”

One of the leading players in the aviation industry is Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways. He tells Giokos about his goals for Qatar as a tourist destination, “We want Qatar to be a family destination. We don’t want 20, 30, 100 million visitors. We just want a number that my country can sustain and give them an experience that is second to none.”

The 2022 World Cup gave Qatar a global platform that Al Baker says has led to increased visitor numbers, “We have already crossed 1.2 million foreign visitors to my country in the first three months of this year. So you can see that this has made a huge impact, introduced people to Qatar which they never expected. We have sand and sea, we have culture, we have historical places. The only thing is that we didn’t promote it well. And now after FIFA it is our job to make sure that Qatar is always remembered as a favourite destination for people to visit.”

The environmental challenges facing the industry are also key for Al Baker. He speaks about the push to use more sustainable fuels, “We are buying SAF, sustainable aviation fuel. The problem is, it’s exorbitantly expensive, it’s not available, and the oil companies are more inclined to make more profit from the oil than they can from SAF because the cost to produce is high. But they don’t realise that if they do the volume, then they get the economies of scale and they’ll be able to reduce the price.

Finally, Giokos meets Yehia Zakaria, Chairman & CEO of EGYPTAIR Holding Company. He denies speculation that the company is looking to be sold, “We are not going to privatise. We are still staying that EGYPTAIR is the flag carrier. This is the only bird that carries the flag of Egypt and flying all over the world. So we keep saying that flag carrier is not for sale.”

Giokos also asks Zakaria what is worrying the company for the future, “It’s not our finances, but the competition is very tough. And the situation in the world, you know, every day you have, you had Covid, Russian Ukraine war, so the environment is not balanced.”

Credit : CNN