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The Global Aviation Industry Encounters Turbulence in the Gulf

Mar 2, 2017 | 09:30 GMT
The Global Aviation Industry Encounters Turbulence in the Gulf
An Emirates Airlines A380 sits on the tarmac in Sri Lanka. The Gulf's newfound success in commercial air travel has less to do with policy and more to do with geography.
(ISHARA S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

The airline industry is one of the most protected sectors in the world, but a new competitor has emerged to challenge the West's longtime dominance of the skies: the Arabian Peninsula. Over the past 15 years, airlines based in the Gulf monarchies of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have seen a staggering amount of growth. Dubai's Emirates Airlines, for example, recently became the largest airline outside of North America when it carried 51.8 million passengers a whopping 255.3 billion passenger seat kilometers in the 2015-16 fiscal year -- a huge leap from the 5.7 million passengers and 20.5 billion passenger seat kilometers it logged in 2000-01. Qatar Airways and Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways, the latter of which didn't even exist at the beginning of the millennium, have undergone similar growth spurts. Together, the three Gulf companies have upended the global commercial airline industry as it struggles to cope with...

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