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Air China eyes Middle East hubs

Air China reportedly has “big plans” to establish a second major hub (after Beijing) in Dubai, according to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.

China has increasing business interests in the Middle East and Africa, particularly for natural resources to fuel its economic boom, which is stimulating two-way traffic.

The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing confirmed Air China is seeking to feed traffic from Asia to the Middle East and through to Africa, and Air China indicated a twin-hub strategy could be in place in time for the Summer 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. We wait with interest as Air China rolls out its network plans later in the year.

Meanwhile, AirAsia CEO, Tony Fernandes last week stated planned long-haul carrier, AirAsia X is considering establishing a hub in Bahrain, stating it is “an excellent location for our hub in the region”. AirAsia has close financial ties with Bahrain. In Jun-03, AirAsia sold a 26% stake to three international funds, including a 10% stake to Bahrain-based IDB Infrastructure Fund, in a deal which then valued the start-up carrier at USD100 million.

Fernandes stated the carrier will operate to “many points in the Gulf, including Bahrain”, offering Bahrain-Malaysia return tickets at fares from as low as USD100-200. AirAsia hopes to finalise its Middle East plans within two months after “encouraging” early discussions with the Bahrain Government.