Qantas’ direct flight from Sydney to London, scheduled to start in late 2025, shows that airlines aim to provide travelers from across the globe with the highest levels of accessibility. The Middle East’s aviation sector will likely find this continued development concerning, with Qantas having continued to announce direct long-haul routes that relinquish the need for layovers and stopovers in the Middle East since 2018.
Airbus’s new, ultra-long-range A350-1000s will allow Qantas to fly non-stop from Sydney and Melbourne to any viable location across the globe. This development will become of growing concern for the Middle East if more airlines begin to take orders of this type of aircraft in the future. This region has relied on breaking up long-haul trips to develop as a key player in global travel and tourism.
The Middle East is a global hub for multi-leg flights
The Middle East, and specifically the UAE, is a global hub for multi-leg flights. When looking at the UAE, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are major layover and stopover destinations for flights between Europe and Australia. This type of traffic has helped Dubai International Airport to become one of the world’s busiest airports by international passenger numbers. With such vast passenger numbers spurred by multi-leg trips, the airport creates a valuable contribution to the Emirate’s economy.
According to GlobalData, full-service passenger airline revenue in the UAE is forecast to reach 95% of pre-pandemic (2019) levels in 2022. A significant reason for this strong recovery timeline is due to Abu Dhabi and Dubai being major multi-stop hubs for global airline traffic. While other Middle Eastern destinations such as Doha in Qatar are looking to encourage more end destination flights, so that travelers will inject more tourist dollars into their economy, they will not want to forgo their leading position as a global hub for transitionary air traffic. More passengers taking direct flights will weaken the multi-stop market and create a knock-on impact for the Middle East.
Demand for affordability is welcomed by the Middle East
The travel and tourism industry in the Middle East will hope that affordability continues to trump accessibility in the coming years. According to GlobalData’s Q3 2021 Consumer Survey, 58% of global respondents stated they were most influenced by affordability when planning a holiday, compared to 52% of respondents that stated they were most influenced by accessibility. Direct ultra-long-haul flights, such as the new London to Sydney route, will cost significantly more than a layover route that stops in the Middle East. The increase in cost will deter many from choosing this more convenient type of flight.
The risk lies in more direct flights becoming available between Europe and Australia in the coming years, through a growing number of airlines investing in aircraft like Airbus’s A350-1000. Increased competition could drive the price down to a point where budget-conscious travelers decide that the accessibility offered is too good to miss out on.
The vast number of available flights from Europe to Australia still require stopovers in the likes of the Middle East, which means that travel and tourism companies in this region will not be hitting the panic button yet. However, the gradual increase in ultra-long-haul direct flights will act as food for thought for key hubs such as the UAE, as accessibility will remain as a key influencing factor within trip planning.