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June 14, 2024
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The Middle East remains a major aviation hub, with airlines and airports experiencing significant growth in recent months.

This article delves into the busiest airlines and airports in the Middle East, revealing passenger capacity trends and market share trends.

Busiest Airlines: Shifting Sands in the Airline Landscape

Emirates, the long-standing leader in the region, maintains its top spot with a modest capacity increase of 3.3%. This growth can be attributed to its focus on maintaining its established network and brand recognition.

However, the slower pace compared to some rivals suggests room for strategic adjustments to compete in the evolving market.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways is making significant strides, surging past Saudia (Saudi Arabian Airlines) to become the second-largest carrier in the region.

Qatar Airways’ impressive growth of 17.6% is likely fueled by Qatar’s strong overall economic performance and strategic network expansion, which somehow translates to increased travel spending by its citizens. 

Busiest Airlines Middle East
Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Moreover, the budget airline segment in the region is also witnessing a boom. Flynas takes the crown for the highest capacity increase (a staggering 28.5%) compared to May 2023. This low-cost carrier is capitalizing on the growing demand for affordable travel within the region. 

Etihad Airways also shows impressive growth of 26.6%, indicating a potential comeback strategy after facing challenges in recent years. Recently, Etihad has focused on more competitive pricing and targeted routes to regain market share.

Saudia Boeing 787-10 New Livery

Top 10 Busiest Airlines

Ranking Airline Seats in May 2024 Seats in May 2023
Change May 2024 vs May 2023
1 Emirates (EK) 3,184,047 3,082,626 3.3%
2 Qatar Airways (QR) 2,669,424 2,270,599 17.6%
3 Saudi Arabian Airlines (SV) 2,656,772 2,497,217 6.4%
4 Flydubai (FZ) 1,167,883 1,075,672 8.6%
5 Flynas (XY) 1,147,473 892,906 28.5%
6 Etihad Airways (EY) 992,088 783,896 26.6%
7 flyadeal (F3) 842,394 742,512 13.5%
8 Air Arabia (G9) 761,153 682,999 11.4%
9 Gulf Air (GF) 532,719 466,208 14.3%
10 Oman Air (WY) 387,471 444,295 -12.8%


Emirates Boeing 777 at Dubai International Airport

Busiest Airports: Dubai Retains its Crown, Doha Chases Closely

Dubai International Airport (DXB) remains the undisputed king in the region, further solidifying its position with a 7.2% capacity increase in monthly capacity. This growth reflects Dubai’s continued focus on tourism, infrastructure, and its role as a major international transit hub.

However, Doha’s Hamad International Airport (DOH) is hot on its heels. Boasting an impressive 18.7% capacity increase, Doha is benefiting from Qatar Airways’ expansion and strategic location.

This trend suggests a potential shift in the regional aviation landscape in the coming years.

King Khalid International Airport Riyadh

A Hub of Growth, with Exceptions

This month’s capacity reveals positive growth trends across most major regional airports. King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) in Jeddah and King Khalid International Airport (RUH) in Riyadh continue to report healthy increases, reflecting Saudi Arabia’s focus on religious tourism and economic diversification. 

Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) also experiences a remarkable 28.3% surge, potentially due to Etihad’s growth strategy.

However, there are a couple of outliers. Kuwait International Airport (KWI) shows a slight decline. This could be due to several reasons, such as regional competition or a lack of significant investment in infrastructure and attracting new airlines.

Moreover, Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) in Tel Aviv experiences a significant drop (almost 45%). This can be attributed to ongoing regional political tensions and travel restrictions that dampen tourism and business travel to Israel.

Qatar Airways Airbus A350s in Doha

Top 10 Busiest Airports

Rank Airport Seats in May 2024 Seats in May 2023
Change May 2024 vs May 2023
1 Dubai International Airport (DXB) 5,022,967 4,685,576 7.2%
2 Hamad International Airport (DOH) 2,685,557 2,262,600 18.7%
3 King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) 2,306,175 2,150,996 7.2%
4 King Khalid International Airport (RUH) 1,906,180 1,711,984 11.3%
5 Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) 1,401,626 1,092,791 28.3%
6 Kuwait International Airport (KWI) 873,156 882,310 -1.0%
7 Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) 753,508 1,362,710 -44.7%
8 Sharjah International Airport (SHJ) 750,089 652,282 15.0%
9 Muscat International Airport (MCT) 702,034 663,684 5.8%
10 King Fahd International Airport (DMM) 692,394 621,265 11.4%


Riyadh Air Boeing 787-9

Looking Ahead: A Competitive and Dynamic Market

The Middle Eastern aviation market is dynamic and competitive. While established giants like Emirates maintain their presence, the rise of budget carriers like Flynas and the impressive growth of Qatar Airways indicate a shifting landscape. 

Airlines that can adapt to changing market dynamics by offering competitive pricing, strategic network expansion, and catering to diverse passenger needs will likely soar even higher. 

Just look at Emirates. The DXB-based carrier recently announced that it would refurbish another 43 Airbus A380s and 28 Boeing 777-300ERs, expanding its retrofit program to 191 aircraft. The original plan was to refurbish 120 aircraft, including 67 A380s and 53 777s.

Emirates Airbus A380 Final Delivery

Similarly, airports that continuously and strategically invest in infrastructure attract new airlines and cater to the specific needs of different passenger segments (business, leisure, transit) are well-positioned to maintain or improve their standing. 

Recently, Dubai unveiled a groundbreaking plan to transform Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) into the world’s largest airport with an annual capacity of 260 million passengers. DWC will feature five parallel runways and 400 aircraft gates. 

This ambitious project, estimated to cost AED 128 billion ($34.85 billion), is expected to solidify further Dubai’s position as a global leader in aviation and logistics. The future of Middle Eastern aviation promises continued growth and innovation, with the potential for new leaders to emerge.

Al Maktoum International Airport Rendering

Data Source: OAG

author avatar
Sharad Ranabhat
An experienced journalist, based in Nepal, with a proven track record of delivering breaking news and research-based analysis in the airline/aviation industry. Working with multiple outlets, I have honed my writing skills to produce engaging and informative content that resonates with industry professionals and enthusiasts alike.

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