French plane manufacturer Airbus is pursuing smaller Middle East and North African airlines as it predicts the ‘big three’ will no longer dominate its sales by the next decade, the president of Airbus Group Middle East has reportedly said.
Dubai’s Emirates, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad and Qatar Airways have been Airbus’ biggest customers in recent years, but their huge bookings mean they are likely to account for only about one-third of the region’s total sales by 2032, Habib Fekih told Bloomberg.
“The big three can maybe grab 30 to 35 percent of the forecast fleet demand, but the rest has to go somewhere else,” Fekih was quoted as saying.
“I don’t see an airline ordering hundreds of aircraft every year.”
The manufacturer has said it wants to sell about 2000 planes in MENA between 2013 and 2032.
To counter the reduced sales from the big three, Airbus was targeting smaller airlines in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, Fekih said.
Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) has said it would double its fleet to 200 by 2020, while two new airlines are expected to soon enter the booming domestic market and also would require some planes.
Kuwait Airways already has ordered several dozen aircraft, with deliveries due in phases until 2020.
Dubai’s low-cost carrier flydubai is continuously expanding, while Sharjah-based AirArabia has opened several new hubs and taken over services in Ras Al Khaimah, with more growth also expected.
The North African carriers have suffered financially in recent years and are in poor form. But Airbus is hoping economic growth will see them also improve and make new plane orders.
Fekih said there also was potential in Iraq and Yemen when conflict subsided, and in Iran when international sanctions were lifted.
“I’ve been in the region for more than 20 years, we passed many wars, many crises and despite that the traffic is growing higher than the average rate in the rest of the world,” he was quoted as saying.