Top 10: Arab Airlines by Seat Numbers 2011

Which of the region's carriers offer the most seats per week?
Airlines, Emirates airline, Etihad Airways, Middle East airlines, SPECIAL REPORTS, Top 10...


More than 3.5 million seats are currently offered by Arab airlines each week, around 7.4 percent higher than last year, but which of the region’s carriers are leading the pack?

1. Emirates Airline

November 2011 Seats Per Week: 909,764

Emirates, the most successful airline in the Middle East, continued its aggressive international growth over the past year, with the launch of various new routes as well as increased capacity on existing services. As a result, it has edged closer to becoming the region’s first carrier to offer one million seats a week – a milestone that could be achieved in the next couple of years.

According to the November 2011 figures from Innovata, a total of 909,764 seats are offered per week by Emirates Airline, which is around 6.8 percent higher than the corresponding month in 2010 and nearly double the amount of its nearest competitor on this list.

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2. Saudi Arabian Airlines

November 2011 Seats Per Week

Although the unprecedented growth of airlines from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have overshadowed the subtle expansion of Saudi Arabian Airlines, the national carrier has invested billions of dollars in a fleet modernisation programme, with rumours that 50 additional aircraft will soon be purchased.

On average, Saudi Arabian Airlines offered 487,570 seats per week in November 2011, which marks a growth rate of 8.9 percent over November last year and brings the carrier a little closer to the 500,000 mark.

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3. Qatar Airways

November 2011 Seats Per Week: 434,143

Qatar Airways has emerged as one of the fast-growing airlines in the history of aviation, with new services launched to destinations such as Montreal, Oslo, Stuttgart and Kolkata this year, plus added capacity to the likes of Copenhagen, Barcelona, Frankfurt and Dubai. The carrier’s average seat numbers were 434,143 per week in November 2011 according to Innovata, an increase of 13.3 percent in comparison to the 383,267 seats offered per week in November 2010.

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4. Egyptair

November 2011 Seats Per Week 336,871

Egyptair has managed to increase its seat numbers in 2011, even with considerable impact from political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This month, for example, the national carrier has averaged 336,871 seats per week, which is 12 percent higher than November 2010. A major contributor to this impressive growth has been a continued fleet expansion, with the recent delivery of aircraft such as the Boeing 777-300ER and 737-800NG.

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5. Etihad Airways

November 2011 Seats Per Week: 223,624

Following a record performance in the first three quarters of 2011, Etihad Airways is expected to breakeven this year and become a profitable venture from 2012 onwards. The airline, based in Abu Dhabi, has added six aircraft to its fleet in the last 12 months, resulting in the launch of new services and increased frequencies to the likes of Paris, Manchester, Brussels and Manila. Etihad offered 223,624 seats per week in November 2011, a year-on-year increase of 11.3 percent.

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6. Royal Air Maroc

November 2011 Seats Per Week: 153,792

A long-standing veteran of the aviation industry, Royal Air Maroc’s fleet has mainly focused on medium-to-long haul aircraft, such as Boeing 737s and Airbus A321s. Even though the national carrier became a launch customer for the ATR 600 turboprop series earlier this year, it has continued to lose market share from faster-growing competitors across the region, leading to seat numbers of 153,792 per week in November 2011, a year-on-year drop of 12.6 percent.

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7. Gulf Air

November 2011 Seats Per Week: 153,420

In the midst of a large-scale turnaround programme, Gulf Air has ventured into new markets such as Copenhagen, Milan, Geneva, Rome, Addis Ababa and Basra this year. In the Middle East too, the national carrier has introduced 28 additional flights per week to the UAE and Kuwait as part of its winter 2011 schedule. Such developments have fuelled a healthy increase in weekly seat numbers, which amounted to 153,420 this month – only a fraction less than Royal Air Maroc and around 7.8 percent more than Gulf Air’s figures from November 2010.

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8. flydubai

November 2011 Seats Per Week: 122,850

Celebrating its second anniversary earlier this year, flydubai has successfully transformed itself into a leading provider of low-cost travel. In fact, with a never-ending list of new launches this year – including services to Kiev, Hyderabad and Riyadh – flydubai has achieved the biggest increase in this year’s list. A total of 122,850 seats were offered each week in November 2011, 77.6 percent more than the same month in 2010, helping flydubai to leapfrog its low-cost rival Air Arabia.

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9. Air Arabia

November 2011 Seats Per Week: 120,204

Air Arabia, a pioneer of low-cost travel in the Middle East, might have been overtaken by flydubai in this year’s list, but growth has still continued at impressive rates for the Sharjah-based airline. Services were introduced to destinations such as Moscow, Donestsk and Yanbu this year, while frequencies were boosted to Doha, Istanbul and Kenya.

Four new Airbus A320s have also been received in 2011 to date. As a result, the total number of seats offered by
Air Arabia increased to 120,204 this month, around 13.5 percent more than November 2010.

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10. Oman Air

November 2011 Seats Per Week: 116,174

Another solid performer this year, Oman Air has maintained its position in the top 10. Starting with the launch of Milan services at the beginning of this year, the national carrier also resumed services between Salalah and Dubai, and Muscat and Zanzibar, while its fleet was expanded with the Embraer 175 aircraft. In total, Oman Air offered 116,174 seats per week in November 2011, which is 17.9 percent higher than the previous year – and more than double the region’s average increase of 7.4 percent.