The Gulf States

The rapid development of the Gulf States can partly be attributed to the symbiotic partnership between the region’s ruling elites and their airlines, says Colin Ellson, who profiles six destinations in the region.


In the Late 1970s airline executive Maurice Flanagan was appointed by the ruling Maktoum family to run a carrier that “looked good and made money”. And so Emirates was born. Flanagan leased two aircraft and used to recall how in those formative years an Arab on a camel blew a trumpet to clear the runway of traders. The rest is history.

Proof of how a successful airline can provide the international trade links to energise an economy is demonstrated by Dubai, now the undisputed business, logistics and leisure hub of the region.

The example is mirrored elsewhere in the Gulf. The airlines of Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia each contribute to their state’s prosperity.

Airports and infrastructure development are the focus of a number of Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, the UK's largest trading partner in the region.

Meanwhile, Oman is now seeking expertise in the fields of health, energy and education. Finally, Qatar plans to invest US$220 billion in infrastructure over the next seven years, largely in support of its role as FIFA World Cup host in 2022.

Flights from the UK to the Gulf are plentiful and involve a journey of around seven hours – time well spent in pursuit of large-scale business.

From London Heathrow, Emirates flies to Dubai 35 times a week, British Airways and Qantas twicedaily, and Virgin Atlantic and Royal Brunei daily. Emirates also operates from Newcastle daily, from Glasgow twice-daily, and thrice-daily out of London Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham. From continental Europe, Lufthansa serves Dubai daily from Frankfurt and Munich, and Air France and KLM fly daily from Paris Charles De Gaulle and Amsterdam Schiphol respectively.

Abhu Dhabi
British Airways flies from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi daily, and Etihad Airways flies thrice-daily in addition to its twice-daily departure from Manchester and a daily service from Edinburgh. Air France offers twicedaily flights out of Paris CDG, and KLM a daily flight from Schiphol.

British Airways flies from Heathrow to Bahrain daily and Gulf Air operates a twice-daily service between the destinations. Other services include Lufthansa’s daily departures from Frankfurt via Riyadh, and KLM’s similar but direct frequency out of Schiphol.

The only direct flights from the UK to Muscat are offered by Oman Air, which operates daily from Heathrow to Muscat, although all the Gulf carriers fly to Oman from their hub airports. In addition, Lufthansa flies daily from Frankfurt via Doha, and KLM has five direct flights a week from Amsterdam Schiphol.

Qatar Airways offers a high frequency of services from the UK to Doha, flying from Heathrow to the Qatari capital 42 times a week, from Manchester twice-daily, and from Edinburgh daily. From the continent, Lufthansa flies daily from Frankfurt, with KLM providing five flights a week from its Amsterdam Schiphol hub.

British Airways flies from Heathrow to Riyadh daily, and Saudi Arabian Airlines operates services on the route four times a week. Lufthansa flies to the Saudi capital daily from Frankfurt and three times a week from Munich, while Air France offers four services a week out of Paris CDG, with an additional five operated by Saudia.

Getting Around
Travelling on a multi-centre itinerary in the region is quick and easy. With short journey times, the main carriers – Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways and Gulf Air – offer frequent flights from their respective bases to all the other capital cities in our survey. Good services are also available on low-cost carriers, which have flocked to this lucrative Gulf market “like bees to the honeypot”, according to OAG. These include Sharjah’s Air Arabia, Dubai’s flydubai, Saudi Arabia’s Nas Air and Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways.
Information correct at time of publication: September 2015
Selected flight information supplied by aviation intelligence specialist