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
- How Does the Model of Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad Work?
- Why is This Model Difficult to Replicate?
A Mega Hub And Spoke in the Middle East
In commercial aviation, the hub and spoke model is a fundamental strategy to maximize efficiency and connectivity. In this system, a ‘hub’ acts as a nerve center where flights from various destinations (‘spokes’) converge.
Airlines such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad have successfully adopted and perfected this model. They have transformed their hubs in Dubai, Doha, and Abu Dhabi, respectively, into global crossroads. These airports see flights arriving and departing for every corner of the world.
This approach allows them to offer passengers a wide range of international destinations with optimized 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 network of routes.
How Does the Model of Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad Work?
Although simple in its conception, implementing the hub and spoke model on this scale requires precise planning and advanced logistical management. Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad have specialized in these elements over the years, establishing themselves as global super connectors.
The functioning of the airline involves scheduling all its flights in waves. That is, the flight schedules are organized so that they all 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, while 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.
Why is This Model Difficult to Replicate?
The barrier to successfully duplicating 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.