Middle East Airline Analysis: How The Top Gulf Carriers Performed in 2021

Based on the latest data from 2021, we've analyzed the number of flights, punctuality & cancellations of four major Middle East airlines in 2021: Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, and Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Middle East Airline Analysis – Overview and Contained Airlines

After initiating our new airline analysis series where we analyze the performance of leading airlines, we thought it is time to put data on a higher level. Therefore, we extracted some of the results and compiled them as a Middle East Airlines Analysis. Actually, that’s the second part, since we already published a similar report for leading European airlines. So here’s what’s contained?

  • We looked at the number of flights the airlines performed from February to June 2021. Moreover, we put that into relation to more than 200 airlines.
  • On top of that, we looked comapred traffic volumes to pre-COVID levels.
  • Moreover, we analyzed the on-time performance and again put it into context with all major global airlines.
  • And finally, we looked at the airlines’ cancellation rates.

Here are the airlines that are contained in the Middle East Airline Analysis:

AirlineIATA
EmiratesEK
EtihadEY
Qatar AirwaysQR
Saudi Arabian AirlinesSV
Middle East Airlines Analysis – Contained Airlines

If you want to dive into the detailed analysis of a single airline, here are the links you need:

Middle East Airlines – Analysis by Number of Flights

Overall Results

When looking at the number of flights, the Middle East airlines are currently separated into three classes. With more than 10,000 monthly flights on average, Saudia and Qatar Airways play in the top league. Moreover, Saudi Arabian Airlines has developed itself to the biggest Middle East airline according to the number of flights. On the other hand, Emirates—the former biggest airline in the Middle East— is currently located in the midfield. The Dubai-based airline has operated 5,000 flights on average from February to June 2021. And finally, Etihad doesn’t play an essential role at the moment, with only 2,500 flights on average.

Even more critical: Saudi Arabian Airlines is the only Middle East airline that has constantly grown its flight volume from February to June. The other carriers haven’t achieved substantial growth.

Middle East Airlines Analysis - Number of Flights
Middle East Airlines — Number of flights from February to June

Data Details
If you want to dive into the details, here’s the underlying data of the above chart.

AirlineFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneAverage
EK4,9645,7215,7485,2485,6295,462
EY2,3112,6022,6992,6662,5392,563
QR9,629 10,925 9,83710,0729,73810,040
SV9,1029,78211,186 12,091 12,264 10,885
Middle East Airlines — Monthly Flights February – June 2021

Global Ranking

With the global ranking, we compare the airlines’ performance to more than 200 other airlines. Accordingly, the chart shows the position of each airline for each of the months. So it’s essential to understand that the closer an airline is positioned to the bottom, the better it is.

Due to non-existent growth, Etihad’s position among the world’s biggest airlines constantly decreased. As a result, the Abu Dhabi-based airline struggled to remain in the top 100 airlines by the number of flights. Emirates, which played a significant role in the past, also decreased in global rankings. The airline ranked ~50th in February but lost several positions.

Saudi Arabian Airlines and Qatar Airways performed slightly better than Etihad and Emirates. Nevertheless and despite their growth rate, both airlines lost positions in June. However, both airlines still rank among the world’s top 50 biggest airlines.

Middle East Airlines — Global Ranking by number of flights
Middle East Airlines — Global Ranking by number of flights

Data Details
If you want to dive into the details, here’s the underlying data of the above chart.

AirlineFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune
EK5353526064
EY7682858899
QR2827323041
SV3134272734
Middle East Airlines — Global Ranking February – June 2021

Middle East Airlines – Traffic Compared to Pre-COVID

The comparison of traffic volume to pre-COVID level definitely holds some of the most interesting insights. However, similar to the above explanation, we can see a separation between Qatar Airways and Saudi Arabian Airlines on the one side and Emirates and Etihad on the other side. Qatar Airways and Saudi Arabian Airlines managed to operate ~60%-~65% of their pre-COVID volume, whereas Etihad and Emirates are below 40%.

Middle East Airlines – Traffic Volume Compared to pre-COVID

Data Details
If you want to dive into the details, here’s the underlying data of the above chart.

AirlineFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneAverage
EK31.5%34.1%40.9%41.3%35.5%36.6%
EY34.4%33.0%34.4%34.4%34.0%34.0%
QR63.5% 73.7% 65.3% 64.7% 69.3% 67.3%
SV54.0%53.0%61.9%63.7%65.3%59.5%
Middle East Airlines — Punctuality February – June 2021

Middle East Airlines – Analysis by Punctuality

With an increasing number of flights, punctuality is also back in the spotlight for many airlines — and passengers. Therefore, we’ve analyzed the arrival on-time performance of the carriers in the corresponding months.

Overall Results

When looking at the punctuality results, it seems like we turned the above results upside down. On average, Emirates and Etihad showed the best on-time performance from February to June. On the other side, Saudi Arabian Airlines operated at a very poor punctuality level. Moreover, Saudi Arabian Airlines is the only of the four airlines that performed below the global average.

Middle East Airlines - Punctuality February - June 2021
Middle East Airlines – On-time Performance February – June 2021

Data Details
In case you want to dive into the details, here’s the underlying data of the above chart.

AirlineFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneAverage
EK89.8% 92.8% 90.2% 93.7% 90.2% 91.3%
EY87.1%92.8%83.8%86.7%85.2%87.1%
QR83.5%81.1%77.3%84.1%85.1%82.2%
SV73.6%73.9%63.2%71.6%77.2%71.9%
Global Average77.7%82.5%81.9%80.9%76.8%79.9%
Middle East Airlines — Punctuality February – June 2021

[rp4wp]

Middle East Airlines – Analysis by Punctuality

Global Ranking

From a global point of view, the on-time performance ranking of analyzed airlines looks very interesting. Emirates is the only airline that managed to rank among the top 100 punctual airlines constantly. Saudia, on the other side, continually ranks in the last quarter.

Middle East Airlines - Global Ranking by Punctuality
Middle East Airlines – Global Ranking by Punctuality


Data Details

In case you want to dive into the details, here’s the underlying data of the above chart.

AirlineFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune
EK4947715854
EY7448118102106
QR92139158124107
SV144168183167152
Middle East Airline — Punctuality Global Ranking February – June 2021

Middle East Airlines – Analysis by Cancellations

Overall Results

When looking at the cancellation rate of analyzed airlines, two significant aspects are apparent:

Emirates shows amazing performance
When we put together Emirates’ results in terms of cancellations, we were amazed and disappointed. We were amazed because we haven’t analyzed an airline that operated for four consecutive months without any cancellations. Therefore, Emirates’ performance from February to May was outstanding. But, unfortunately, the June results messed up the overall performance, as we will see in the below ranking.

Saudia struggles
Unfortunately, the weak performance in terms of punctuality continues when looking at the cancellation rate. On average, Saudia canceled 8.2% of its flights from February to June. Moreover, in April, the cancellation rate rose to 12.2%.

Middle East Airlines - Cancellation Rate
Middle East Airlines – Cancellation Rate February – June 2021

Data Details
In case you want to dive into the details, here’s the underlying data of the above chart.

AirlineFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneAverage
EK0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 1.3%0.3%
EY2.0%0.5%1.4%3.6%1.0%1.7%
QR2.2%1.7%1.9%1.6%0.4% 1.6%
SV8.7%8.6%12.2%6.9%4.7%8.2%
Global Avg.8.7%6.1%6.3%7.7%8.9%7.5%
Middle East Airlines — Cancellation Rates February – June 2021

Global Ranking

Here is the global ranking of Middle East airlines in terms of cancellation rates.

Middle East Airlines - Cancellation Rate Global Ranking
Middle East Airlines – Global Ranking by Cancellations


Data Details

In case you want to dive into the details, here’s the underlying data of the above chart.

AirlineFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune
EK3323118
EY9169110138112
QR9311212310978
SV
Middle East Airlines — Cancellation Rates Global Ranking February – June 202

Middle East Airlines Ranking -What Do You Think?

We’re always happy to get your feedback. Just leave a comment below or get in touch with the author on social media.

Used Data
The shown information is based on OAG data and internal data sources. Rankings only included airlines that operated more than 300 flights in the respective month. However, the global benchmark includes all tracked flights. On average, 200 airlines are included in each month’s analysis. Whenever stated, EMEA refers to airlines based in Europe, the Middle East, or Africa.

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About the author

Benjamin Walther

CEO, Frankfurt

Benjamin is Information Design's CEO and a proven content-maniac. Besides running a successful business and developing pioneering ideas, he's dedicated to writing blog posts and creating content.

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