February 23rd, 2012
02:56 PM GMT
Dubai, UAE (CNN) – The Middle East’s airlines are venturing into new markets, connecting the region with new and distant destinations.
Emirates Airlines is making its mark on international aviation. Launched in 1985, it's one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world, with a fleet of 169 planes serving more than 100 destinations.
At the heart of its success is a strategy that looks east, actively targetting emerging markets that are often unserved by Western carriers.
Tim Clark – the airline’s president - has been instrumental in mapping out those routes. “I don’t think we contemplated then in the late 80s what we are doing today as regard to the emerging markets,” Clark told CNN’s Leone Lakhani.
“As these economies started to energize … you saw the rise of the middle classes in those areas and with that came demand for travel, not just for business – there was a lot of that – but for travel to see the rest of the world.”
Thriving in the untapped markets of South-East Asia, Africa and Latin America, Emirates quickly took off. It's now the largest operator of the A380 Superjumbos.
Dubai has never been blessed with the oil riches of its neighbours, but it has been one of the main ports in the Persian Gulf for centuries. Now the government has put aviation at the heart of its growth strategy, not just by launching Emirates, but by supporting and expanding Dubai's airport.
Dubai airport is the world's fourth-busiest international airport, with passenger numbers growing at a rate of more than 15% each year. Greater traffic through Dubai's airports brings more people into the city, boosting the overall economy.
“Today the aviation sector, which includes the airport, is 25% of the GDP of Dubai,” said Clark.
The Emirates Airlines story is serving as the template for the region's two other main carriers, Etihad and Qatar airways, whose ambitions are equally grand.
"We are fortunate to be in the heart of a region that has over three billion population just within a five-hour radius of our hub,” says Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways.
Abu Dhabi's flag carrier, Etihad, has services to more than 80 destinations. It plans to expand its existing services to China and already flies to Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu.
Together, the three airlines are spreading their routes from the Middle East to the far reaches of Asia and Africa.
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