How Are The Three Major Middle Eastern Airlines So Popular and Successful?

Emirates, Etihad, Qatar. We’ve all heard of them. These airlines are known as the Middle Eastern 3 (or “ME3”) and according to Skytrax are currently the first, fourth, and eighth best airlines in the world (With Qatar being first, Emirates being fourth, and Etihad being eighth). These airlines serve extremely small markets, but they use their hub and spokes system to transport millions of passengers around the world through their hubs (Emirates=Dubai, Etihad=Abu Dhabi, Qatar=Doha). How do they do it?!


The Middle East has an extremely central geographic location in the world. You can fly to any major continent in the world (unlike with North America for example, where you cannot fly to Australia). This attracts so many connecting passengers trying to go intercontinental.

For example, in April of this year on Emirates, you can technically fly from New York JFK to Delhi Indira Gandhi Airport in Delhi, India in less than 18 hours and only for about $900, always cheaper than the directs! In the price difference is substantial enough and the airlines are much better, many passengers would much rather take a connecting flight on a much better airline for a cheaper price than a worse airline flying direct (which saves a couple of hours) at a more expensive price. This also is part of the explanation for why Emirates has so many A380s and 777s (which I might explain in a later post).

The three major airlines are giving the option for people to connect through the Middle East on better airlines than through Europe, while about a decade ago, Europe was the only option for passengers crossing the globe.

The Emirates A380. Source: Wikimedia Commons


Great Hub Airports

Dubai International Airport (DXB), Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH), and Doha Hamad International Airport (DOH) all offer seamless connections because they all have their respective hub airlines in a single terminal (Unlike airports like London Heathrow International Airport, where you can either be flying out of Terminal 3 or Terminal 5 if flying British Airways.

Bird’s eye view of Hamad International Airport in Doha. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Banked Hubs

a banked hub is a hub system where flights are timed to leave the hub airport at certain times to help connecting passengers. All three hubs are banked hubs, meaning they can quickly and efficiently connect passengers.

For example, according to Wendover Productions, Etihad Airways has two banks a day. In the first bank, most flights from the West of Abu Dhabi arrive between 7:00 and 8:30 PM, while Eastbound flights depart between 9:30 and 10:30 PM. In the second bank, most flights from the East of Abu Dhabi arrive between 11:30 PM and 12:30 AM, and the final bank of Westbound flights depart between 2:00 and 3:30 AM. This gives passengers the quickest and most efficient connections.

The Etihad A380. Source: Wikimedia Commons


The Middle Eastern 3 airlines are becoming as successful if not more successful than large European airlines such as BA, Lufthansa or Air France/KLM in connecting passengers around the world. Not only that, but they can do it using much smaller markets. These airlines keep growing and improving, and there is no sign of them stopping.

[Featured image from Wikimedia Commons]

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