The Middle East will see the strongest growth of any global region in available long-haul airline seats in September, adding 22,000 extra seats per day, according to the latest statistics from OAG, the market leader in flight schedule data.

The OAG FACTS (Frequency and Capacity Trend Statistics) report for September 2012 reveals an expected 5% growth in available seats to and from the Middle East, compared to September 2011, with 13.1 million anticipated in the month. Meanwhile, flight operations to and from the region are expected to increase by 4% to 59,771.

Rob Shaw, Director of Analytics at OAG, says: “ Dubai is expected to lead all major global hubs in September in terms of growth, with an 8% increase in flights and a 12% increase in seats, a disparity partly reflecting Emirates’ adoption of the Airbus A380. However, Abu Dhabi is enjoying the fruits of its own expansion strategy and will remain the fastest growing hub in the Middle East, with a 16% increase in seat capacity to 1,661,512 compared to September 2011. Doha and Riyadh will also see strong growth in seat capacity of 10% and 5% respectively.

“The Middle East remains at the vanguard of long-haul air traffic growth globally. While this expansion in part reflects the ambitious growth targets of the ‘superconnector’ airlines – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways – airport infrastructure investments across the region continue to make the Middle East attractive to other long-haul carriers.”

In contrast to the region’s long-haul growth, air traffic within the Middle East is expected to decrease in September, with a 3% drop in both flights and seats. Low-cost carriers (LCCs) are expected to increase their share of intra-Middle Eastern seat capacity to 15%, an increase of 12% over September 2011. Meanwhile, LCC flights in the region are expected to grow by 16% in the month, with 856 extra flights compared to the same period in 2011.

Shaw says: “LCCs are increasing their market share in the Middle East. Not only are they achieving robust growth within regional flights and seats, but low-cost operations are also becoming more prominent in long-haul traffic. In September, LCCs are expected to achieve 18% growth in flights and seats to and from the Middle East compared to 2011, equivalent to 1,048 extra flights and 182,139 additional seats.”

Asia Pacific on the rise
While the Middle East comes top in many key air traffic metrics today, OAG FACTS also reveals the fast-gathering strength of Asia Pacific as tomorrow’s air traffic titan.

Shaw says: “Atlanta is expected to remain the world’s largest global hub in September, with flight numbers level with September 2011 and seats up 2%. However, Beijing is fast closing the gap, with a seat number deficit against Atlanta of only 248,000 in September 2012, contrasted with 544,000 in September 2011.”

According to Shaw, Asia Pacific’s rapid economic development is clearly indicated by growth in the area’s intra-regional air traffic. Asia Pacific remains the world’s largest market for regional air travel in terms of seat numbers. “Only the Middle East and Asia Pacific will see increases in intra-regional flights and seats in September compared to 2011.

However, while the Middle East is expected to show a healthy 16% growth in seats – an extra 145,000 – Asia Pacific will add 32% more seats in the month. That’s an additional 5.8 million.”

LCC seat capacity within Asia Pacific is expected to grow by 32% in September versus the previous year, representing 7.2 million extra seats (over 241,000 additional seats per day). Meanwhile, LCC intra-regional flights in Asia Pacific are due to increase by 24%.

Shaw says: “The real hot spot for LCC growth is South East Asia, which will see a huge 76% increase in seats versus September 2011, a rise of 4.4 million.”

Global highlights
Worldwide, scheduled airline flights are expected to decrease by 0.4% in September 2012 versus September 2011 (11,799 fewer), although seat capacity will be 2% higher (6,088,628 more). The total number of scheduled flights operating in September will be 2,615,534, with 340,191,374 seats offered.

North America is expected to record the greatest volume decreases in intra-regional volumes in the month, with a fall of almost one million seats and 28,000 flights against the prior year, continuing the recent trend.

Seat capacity performance at the top 10 global hubs will be mixed, with only half recording increases. Heathrow, Chicago, Paris and Los Angeles are all expected to show decreases. Frankfurt will be the fifth largest hub by seat capacity, up from sixth in September 2011.

For the year to date (January-September 2012), scheduled flights are expected to show growth of 1% versus the same period last year, an increase of 324,842 flights. Seat capacity is expected to grow by 3%, creating 92 million additional seats in the period.