A number of Middle Eastern airlines have recently announced that they will be increasing passenger capacity out of Manchester Airport. Emirates has said that because customer demand was consistently high from the northern city it would be adding a service to Dubai on 1 May. Fellow Arab carrier Qatar Airways has also announced that it will be adding capacity between Manchester and Abu Dhabi on 1 August and Etihad will be doing the same between Manchester and Doha on 1 June.
All three are currently engaged in growing the size of their fleets. Emirates will add 45,000 seats through Dubai with an order which will grow its A380 superjumbo fleet to 90 planes. Etihad has 100 new passenger jets on order and Qatar a further 178.
By targeting Manchester, the Middle Eastern carriers are hoping to challenge the large international carriers operating out of the UK’s busiest hub, Heathrow. British Airways, which quit flying long-haul operations from Manchester in 2008, said it was not worried by the challenge because the airlines were not posing a threat on current services.
Willie Walsh, BA’s former CEO, said the carrier had tried to make a profit out of Manchester and had failed to do so. The airline, which recently merged with Iberia to create International Consolidate Airlines Group, is concentrating on growing its presence across the Atlantic to North and Latin America.
According to Irene Hulme, of luxury agents Travel by Design, many customers prefer to begin their journey in Manchester rather than suffer the crowds at Heathrow.