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Aviation industry in the Gulf Cooperation Council - statistics & facts

The Gulf Council is an important hub for the international aviation sector. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit the aviation sector in 2020, Dubai International Airport was one of the busiest airports worldwide, especially in terms of passenger traffic, handling over 86.3 million passengers in 2019. Within the GCC region it was followed by Doha International Airport with 30 million passengers. Regarding fuel costs, the GCC region is famous for their oil reserves; therefore, the GCC-based airlines all benefit from lower fuel prices compared to other operating regions.

GCC aviation market structure

Over the last decade, the GCC aviation industry has been outperforming other regional markets, mainly due to its infrastructure and demographic makeup. The GCC is served by 42 airlines, 11 of which are commercial carriers with a focus on passenger transport services. The fact that only two airlines, Air Arabia and Jazeera Airways, are publicly listed, underpins the impression that the GCC aviation industry is mainly government-controlled. Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways are all wholly owned by their governments.

 Leading GCC airlines

Emirates Airline is the largest full-service carrier in the region in terms of fleet, destinations served, and revenue. In 2019, the company carried almost 56 million passengers and 2.5 million metric tons of freight worldwide, producing a revenue of 92 billion Arab Emirates Dirhams.

Etihad’s fleet expansion has put the airline in the top three most significant full-service carriers in the GCC region. Etihad handled around 18.5 million passenger and close to 0.6 million tons of cargo worldwide in 2016.

Air Arabia is one of the region’s four major low-cost carriers, and it is increasingly gaining popularity. With 37 aircraft in its fleet, the airline reported revenue streams of almost 892 million U.S. dollars from passenger operations and over 113 million United Arab Emirates dirhams in cargo revenue in the fiscal year of 2019.

For further interest on the overall impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global aviation industry, please check out our latest dossier on this topic.

Interesting statistics

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Air traffic in the GCC

Dossier on the topic

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Key figures

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Main airport hubs

Passenger air traffic

Air cargo

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