UK – Middle East market still booming; Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways all increasing Manchester flights this summer

In September last year, Emirates began operating the A380 on its route between Dubai and Manchester, the biggest international route at any UK regional airport. The success, which was celebrated by Emirates’ VP UK & Ireland Conrad Clifford and footballer Alan Hansen, continues, as the airline now has announced further increase by adding a third daily frequency. Meanwhile, its fellow MEB3 airlines Etihad and Qatar Airways are doubling frequencies from each once to twice daily.

While total UK airport traffic declined in 2008 (by 1.9%), 2009 (by 7.2%) and 2010 (by 3.4%), one market has continued to grow throughout this period. Passenger numbers to the three major Middle Eastern hubs operated by Emirates (Dubai), Etihad (Abu Dhabi) and Qatar Airways (Doha) have continued to rise inexorably.

Source: UK CAA

Source: UK CAA

Between 1998 and 2010, traffic from London to the home bases of the ‘MEB3’ carriers has grown from under one million annual passengers to over 3.5 million in 2010 with no year-on-year declines during that period. Dubai remains the dominant market, accounting for around two-thirds of the three markets’ total, followed by Doha and Abu Dhabi.

Dubai linked to four UK regional airports

Thanks to Emirates, four UK regional airports have non-stop flights to Dubai. Birmingham flights began in 2000, Glasgow in 2004 and Newcastle in 2007. Since 2000 when Birmingham flights began, this market has grown from 170,000 annual passengers to 1.5 million in 2010.

Source: UK CAA

Source: UK CAA

Last September, Manchester became the first regional airport anywhere in the world to be served daily by an A380, when Emirates assigned the aircraft to one of its two daily flights.

MEB3 carriers all target Manchester in 2011

In the last few weeks, all of the MEB3 carriers have announced additional frequencies on their Manchester route. Emirates will be increasing frequency from twice-daily to three-times daily from 1 May, although capacity will only be increased by 25%. Qatar Airways recently announced that it was moving its London Gatwick service to Manchester, enabling it to add a second daily flight from 1 June, while Etihad Airways is also increasing its offering from a single daily flight to two daily flights, but not until 1 August.

Source: UK CAA

Source: UK CAA

Between 2002 and 2007, passengers between Manchester and the MEB3 hubs quadrupled, before stagnating in 2008 and growing modestly in 2009 and 2010. However, last year’s 8% growth was enough to make Manchester – Dubai the biggest international route from any UK regional airport, passing Manchester – Dublin and Birmingham – Dublin to move into the top spot. Meanwhile, the Birmingham – Dubai route jumped three places from seventh to fourth (overtaking Manchester – Amsterdam, Edinburgh – Amsterdam and Manchester – Paris CDG), thanks to a 14% surge in passenger numbers. (Source: RDC Aviation)


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