Complex Made Simple

Russia attracts and the US restricts: What will happen to UAE aviation?

It sure seems like current US-Russian political relations are bringing back images and memories of the old cold war, as geo-political bickering and internal meddling in sovereign affairs increase.

A new form of cold war is now taking shape in travel, with both sides on opposite poles, as Russia is getting warmer with travelers and the US is giving them a colder shoulder.

What new US restrictions are in place and how will they affect UAE’s Emirates Airlines?

Read: Emirates-Etihad merger: will they or won’t they? 

Emirates’ security plans 

It wasn’t enough that the US administration had issued a revised travel ban last month barring entry to citizens and immigrants from 8 countries, new security measures have been put in place on all US-bound flights that would further restrict passengers during their screening, effective today.

Reuters issued a report saying that new measures could include short security interviews with passengers.
More than 300,000 travellers arrive daily to the US from more than 100 countries.

In a statement to AMEinfo, an Emirates Airlines spokesperson said: “Emirates can confirm that following new security guidelines received from the US government, our flights to the USA will be subject to further enhanced security screening measures starting October 26th, 2017. The new directive requires passenger pre-screening interviews at the check-in counter for originating passengers and at the boarding gate for transfer and transit passengers. These measures will work in complement with the current additional screening measures conducted at the boarding gate (including those for electronic devices). Passengers should allow additional time to be checked-in and boarded if travelling to the USA from Dubai International Airport.”

Saj Ahmad, Chief Analyst, StrategicAero Research, told AMEinfo that, on the security front, it was likely that Dubai International Airport (and Emirates) would make a concerted push for a US pre-clearance facility, like Abu Dhabi has done to help allay passenger concerns and process them faster.

“While these new security checks won’t dampen demand on Emirates’s flights to the USA, they will certainly add to possible airport delays as each passenger has a short interview. It is likely that check in times for US-bound flights will become 3-4 hours as standard,” he said.

“There shouldn’t be additional costs because it will be the existing agents on the ground that do the checks and we’re not talking about a discernible sudden rise in passenger numbers either, so while there might be a time-related delay, there should be a negligible financial impact, if any, on the airline” he added.

Watch: Emirates places Dubai at the center of global travel

Is it a different story on the other side of the globe?

Russia is hot on the travel map

According to UAE state media WAM , Dubai-based flydubai announced today the start of its new daily flights to Sheremetyevo International Airport, SVO, Moscow, as of November 29th.

That will increase the airline’s frequency to the Russian capital so that it doubles daily with the existing service to Vnukovo International Airport, VKO.

flydubai first started operating to Moscow in 2014 and has grown its network in Russia to 11 unique points.

The airline recorded a 45 per cent growth in passenger numbers to Russia in the first half of 2017, compared to the same period in 2016. It is the first carrier to operate direct flights to Sheremetyevo International Airport from the UAE.

There are no security restrictions or ban on citizens from any country in Russian airports.

“Many of flydubai’s routes into Russia are very high yielding and the airline makes a good chunk of money and Moscow will be no different,” said Ahmad.

“This new route will complement the set up with Emirates very well because some passengers may prefer to fly on a smaller, less congested airplane and be able to transit or exit the airport faster versus the A380s that Emirates uses, which obviously have more passengers, and which by extension means more queues at immigration and baggage halls waiting for luggage,” he added.

On whether flydubai will ever start US flights on its own, Ahmad said that they didn’t have a wide-body airplane to fly there and that adding a new type to its fleet would incur massive costs.

“This is why it makes more sense to leverage the strength of Emirates’s US network and codeshare than to go it alone – “and that’s precisely what will happen soon enough.”

Read: Will flydubai deal save Emirates Airline’s plummeting profits?

Codesharing will drive more traffic to Dubai

Passenger traffic at Dubai International (DXB) reached 7.2 million in September, according to a traffic report issued today by operator Dubai Airports.

The year to date’s traffic continued a strong upward trend with 66,568,550 passengers, a growth of 5.8 per cent compared to the first nine months of 2016, said the report. Saudi Arabia contributed 536,187 passengers, just 12,000 less than the UK.

Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports said: “ We are now well set for a great finish to the year thanks to the internationally popular entertainment and sports events lined up for the upcoming winter season here in Dubai.”

Ahmad said: “As ever, the growth spurts at Emirates and flydubai, the biggest two operators at the airport, have generated demand and their new codesharing pact that starts this month will drive forward passenger numbers as we race towards the end of the year.”