Middle East airports losing transfer traffic to Istanbul

Posted: 8 February 2018 | | No comments yet

Major airports in the Gulf, Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi are all losing market share of transit passengers to Istanbul, even before the city’s mega airport opens later this year.


GIANT: Istanbul is seeing a surge in traffic

Analysis by ForwardKeys, a  company that helps forecast future travel by analysing around 17 million flight booking transactions a day, showed that Istanbul’s growth is coming at the expense of Middle Eastern airports.

ForwardKeys’ data for the first quarter of 2018 shows that flight bookings for passengers changing planes in Istanbul are currently 21 per cent ahead of where they were at this time last year whereas the equivalent transit bookings through Dubai and Doha are showing no growth and those through Abu Dhabi are 14 per cent behind.

According to the forecasting company, the decline in Abu Dhabi is reflective of Etihad reducing capacity and dropping its partnership strategy. In terms of the relative size of transit business, Istanbul is bigger than Abu Dhabi but a quarter the size of the three major Gulf airports combined.

Istanbul’s growth is partly due to the success of specific routes including New York and Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, San Francisco to Delhi, London to Antalya, Hamburg to Antalya and Frankfurt to Tehran. Looking in more detail at the nationalities of those people in transit, the most significant increases are due to come from the UK, where bookings are 30 per cent ahead of the equivalent point in 2017, the USA 52 per cent ahead, Germany 35 per cent ahead, India 17 per cent ahead, China 5 per cent ahead and Russia 70 per cent ahead.  

On October 29, Istanbul’s new airport is due to open officially. It aims to be a global aviation hub, serving 90 million passengers in its first phase. Eventually, it expects to become the world’s busiest, with six runways and capacity for 200 million passengers.

Olivier Jager, CEO, ForwardKeys, said: “In addition to the success of various routes, Istanbul’s growth has been helped by a reduction in terrorist incidents in Turkey since 2015, when a wave of bomb attacks hit both Istanbul the city and Istanbul the airport.

“One also should pay tribute to Doha for maintaining its transit volumes in the face of a diplomatic spat with its neighbours, which saw Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE close their airspace to Qatar Airways flights last June.”

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