Middle East

How Does The Middle Eastern Carriers’ Operations Model Work?

Middle Eastern carriers rank among the most intriguing operators in today’s civil aviation landscape. Notably, the ‘big three’ airlines have specialized over the years to become true super connectors. They link every corner of the world with transit flights through their hubs. But exactly how do Middle Eastern carriers operate, and what is their business model key feature?

In this post:

A Mega Hub And Spoke in the Middle East

In commercial aviation, the hub and spoke model is the leading model for legacy and full service airlines maximize efficiency and connectivity. In this system, a hub acts as a nerve center where flights from various, spokes, converge.

Airlines such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad have successfully adopted and perfected this model on the widest scale possible. They have transformed their hubs in Dubai, Doha, and Abu Dhabi, respectively, into global crossroads.

This approach allows them to offer passengers a wide range of international destinations with optimised connections. The efficiency of the hub and spoke model is reflected in these airlines’ ability to centralize operations, reduce waiting times, and offer a broader route network.

Transit Hall at Doha Hamad International Airport home to Qatar Airways one of the largest airlines in the middle east with flights to all inhabited continents in the world. The airline also uses the hub and spoke model.

How Does the Model of Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad Work?

Although simple in its conception, implementing the hub and spoke model on a global scale requires precise planning and advanced logistical management. Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad have specialised in these elements over the years. They have in all respects become the world’s super connectors.

For this massive hub and spoke model to function correctly these airline had to schedule all their flights in waves. In other words, the flight schedules are organised so that all flights arrive within a couple of hours, 3 or 4 times each day. The same happens with departures, which obviously occur after the arrivals.

With this structure, an ideal scenario is created to allow for quick, simple, and efficient passenger transits. A method first developed by Emirates and later emulated by Qatar Airways and finally Etihad.

For instance, if you were to spend 24 hours at any of these three airports:

  • Dubai International Airport (DXB)
  • Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)
  • Hamad International Airport (DOH)

You would notice that in 3 or 4 time windows, the airport will be extremely busy. On the other hand in the hours in between, it will be relatively calm.

For instance, between 5 and 7 in the morning, all Emirates’ overnight flights arriving from Europe land at DXB. Between 9 and 11 in the morning, all flights to Australia and Asia depart. With such short connection times and an aggressive pricing policy (thanks to contained labor and fuel costs), it’s easy to see how this model has been a great success.

Operations of Middle Eastern carriers using a massive hub and spoke model to operate seamless connections from and to any corner of the world.

Why is This Model Difficult to Replicate?

The barrier to successfully applying this model by other airlines is both economic and geographic. Economically, the Gulf countries can access low-cost labor for simpler tasks and can offer very low taxation for all other workers. A labour landscape which is unique to this part of the world.

The geographic factor on the other hand is the most important one, as it cannot be altered with political decisions. The Gulf’s position offers an ideal location for rapid transits, being at a crossroads between Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. Therefore, positioning is key to implementing this business model.

Only a few other locations in Asia, such as Singapore and Bangkok, have somewhat favorable geography for transits. In these last two cases, however, especially between Europe, Asia, and Australia, and not towards Africa.

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