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Aviation in the Middle East has experienced a remarkable surge in growth over the past few years, with a significant impact on the global aviation sector. Jainita Hogervorst, Director of Aerviva Aviation Consultancy, based in Dubai specializing in aviation recruitment and document management explains the role of Middle Eastern airlines in shaping the dynamic global aviation landscape through their growing influence on the recruitment of new pilots, emphasis on sustainability and eco-friendliness, and infrastructure development.

Global Pilot Recruitment

According to a comprehensive report by Boeing, the expansion of airlines in the Middle East, including prominent carriers like Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways, has triggered a surge in demand for skilled pilots. “Emirates’ recent recruitment drive, for example, reflects the group’s robust finances, extensive network expansion, the arrival of new Airbus A350s and Boeing 777-Xs starting in 2024, and a thriving travel market,” explains Hogervorst.  It has been estimated that 1,095 new pilots need to be recruited before 2038 to meet the escalating demand for air travel in the region. “This aggressive recruitment drive not only creates unprecedented job opportunities for pilots but also comes amid a global pilot shortage, thus significantly impacting the global aviation industry,” she says. Thus, Middle Eastern airlines have significantly strengthened the position of aviation professionals through their extensive recruitment programs. This has prompted airlines such as United and Delta to aggressively plan to hire new pilots to keep pace over the next decade.

Sustainability Initiatives

Middle Eastern airlines have led initiatives to elevate industry standards in sustainability and eco-friendliness, garnering significant global attention. The International Air Transport Association announced an aim of net-zero emissions by 2050 in October 2021, and the aviation sector worldwide is under pressure to meet that target by reducing carbon emissions. Substantial investment in sustainable aviation fuel has resulted in nearly a 23% reduction in emissions by Middle Eastern airlines over the past five years. This proactive approach points out Hogervorst, has positioned these airlines, “as pioneers in addressing climate targets through the effective utilization of sustainable fuel, carbon credits, and offsets.” Their initiatives are having a ripple effect on the global aviation industry. For example, United Airlines announced in February 2023 that it had established an investment fund of over $100 million to support start-ups that develop and manufacture sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), and Lufthansa reports that 80% of its emissions will be offset by funding climate protection projects. These sustainability initiatives are setting new benchmarks for environmental consciousness within the aviation industry,” empathizes Hogervorst.

Infrastructure Development at Aviation Hubs

“Aviation hubs at the international airports in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Hamad in Doha have become a critical part of the global aviation network as facilitators of seamless connectivity between Asia, Europe, and Africa. And they are driving an evolution of aviation infrastructure as increasingly modern hubs that cater to diverse flight distances,” Hogervorst points out. Strategic investments in state-of-the-art airports and advanced facilities have bolstered the smooth operation of short-, medium-, and long-haul flights resulting in a staggering 38% increase in the utilization of these hubs.  “This demonstrates the commitment of both US and European airports to improve infrastructure and capacity at aviation hubs,” Hogervorst concludes. The investments in terminal construction, runway construction, and other projects have contributed to the growth of passenger traffic and cargo to meet the reported 17% increase in capacity by 2035.

The initiatives undertaken by Middle Eastern airlines have helped alter the direction of global aviation. With their efforts in pilot recruitment, sustainable practices, and infrastructure development, these airlines highlight their important function in influencing the global aviation industry.