x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

More airline passengers are opting for premium class travel

Premium-class air travel – business and first-class tickets – between Africa and the Middle East grew by the most in the world in June as trade picked up before Ramadan, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Premium-class travel between Africa and the UAE grew the most at about 12 per cent in the first half of this year. Above, a business-class seat at Emirates Airline's Boeing 777. Jeff Topping / The National
Premium-class travel between Africa and the UAE grew the most at about 12 per cent in the first half of this year. Above, a business-class seat at Emirates Airline's Boeing 777. Jeff Topping / The National

More people from across the region are flying in style.

Premium-class air travel - business and first-class tickets - between Africa and the Middle East grew by the most in the world in June as trade picked up before Ramadan, according to the Geneva-based International Air Transport Association (Iata).

Premium traffic on routes between Africa and the Middle East grew 21 per cent in June compared with the same period last year.

Analysts attribute the growth to buoyant economies in several Middle Eastern countries, including in the UAE.

"Diverse and in some cases new trade flows are developing as well as established activities such as the oil, gas and marine sectors," said John Strickland, the director of the London-based air transport consultancy JLS Consulting. "Tourism is also growing strongly to several countries, and that includes a premium market segment."

Increasing trade activity to Iraq is also contributing to the region's traffic growth.

"The problems in Egypt and Syria will certainly impact traffic flows to those countries but is not likely to affect other countries," Mr Strickland said.

The challenges facing air transport in the region also apply to premium travel.

"For example, further efforts to liberalise air transport markets in the region, such as implementation of the Damascus convention whose aim is to liberalise air traffic between countries in the Middle East and North Africa, could increase connectivity and capacity for business travel in the region by doing away with the current myriad of bilateral air service agreements, which limit opportunities for air travel expansion," according to IATA.

At least one travel company based in Dubai reported an increase in premium-class air travel.

Ajay Nair, the head of corporate travel and sales for the UAE for AntaGlobalStar, said the "overall overall market growth in this segment was around 11 per cent" during this year's first half compared with the year-earlier period.

Premium-class travel between Africa and the UAE grew the most at about 12 per cent in the first half of this year over the same period last year, especially to South Africa, Nigeria, Nairobi, Tanzania and Ghana.

Most travellers were from financial institutions, investment banks, hospitality companies, construction and trading companies, followed by tourists, Mr Nair said.

Trade ties between the UAE and Africa has been growing steadily.

Trade between the Emirates and western and central African countries was Dh23.2 billion, or 3 per cent of total trade, during the first nine months of last year, according to the Federal Customs Authority.

Trade with nations in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa was Dh20.8bn, or 2.7 per cent of total trade.

Big UAE investors in Africa include DP World, which operates ports in Egypt and Djibouti, and Etihad Airways, which has a 40 per cent stake in Air Seychelles.

In June, Etihad Cargo started additional flights to new destinations such as Benghazi and Khartoum.

 

ssahoo@thenational.ae