Business, First-Class Air Travel Up 21%, Africa-Middle East

Business, First-Class Air Travel Up 21%, Africa-Middle East

Growth in oil, gas, marine, and tourism industries helped push premium air travel traffic up 27 percent on commercial flights between Africa and the Middle East, according to a report in TheNational.

This represented the highest increase in the world compared with the same period last year, according to the Geneva-based International Air Transport Association. Analysts attribute the growth in business and first-class travel to buoyant economies, the report said.

Premium-class travel between Africa and the U.A.E. grew the most  in the first half of 2013 at about 12 percent, especially to South Africa, Nigeria, Nairobi, Tanzania and Ghana.

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

Big U.A.E. investors in Africa include DP World, which operates ports in Egypt and Djibouti, and Etihad Airways, which has a 40 percent stake in Air Seychelles.

“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, according to the report.

“The problems in Egypt and Syria will certainly impact traffic flows to those countries but are not likely to affect other countries,” Strickland said.

Challenges facing air transport in the region in general also apply to premium travel.

“For example, further efforts to liberalize air transport markets in the region…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. Implementation of the Damascus Convention would help, the report said. Its aim is to liberalize air traffic between countries in the Middle East and North Africa.