How The Middle East Aviation Market Is Set To Soar

Middle East will be one of world’s fastest-growing aviation markets in the next decade.
  • After a mixed start to 2022, the World Cup brought international travelers back to the region    
  • After three years of trying to recover to its size before COVID-19, the global commercial aviation fleet will expand to well over 36,000 aircraft by 2033
  • The Middle East fleet will increase its share of the global fleet over the next decade, in part by bolstering its fleet of narrowbodies


Dubai, March 1, 2023 – Despite a sluggish international travel market, the pace of recovery in the Middle East aviation market accelerated throughout 2022 and is expected to take off over the next 10 years with the region’s share of the global fleet set to expand. That is the finding of the Global Fleet and MRO Market Forecast 2023-2033, recently released by Oliver Wyman, a global management consulting firm and a business of Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC).

The Fleet and MRO Forecast found the global commercial fleet at 98% of where it was in January 2020 (27,400 aircraft at the last count), while global passenger traffic — both domestic and international — is at 82% of its 2019 level. Meanwhile, the global aviation aftermarket — which provides the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) required to keep the fleet flying — is  expected to be back at 98% of its 2019 peak by the end of this year.

Here are the report’s key findings about the Middle East:

  • The Middle East remains among the fastest-growing aviation markets in the world, with the regional fleet set to expand 5.1% annually over the next decade. The MRO sector will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.9% in the same period.
  • The Middle East aviation market is heavily dependent on international travel, which has been slower to rebound to pre-pandemic levels than domestic travel. However, last year the region benefitted from air traffic around events such as the World Cup, which was held in Qatar in the final two months of the year.
  • The Middle East’s share of the global fleet will grow over the decade from 4.9% in 2023 to 6% in 2033.  Meanwhile, the global fleet is projected to expand one-third by 2033, to well over 36,000 aircraft, with Oliver Wyman also anticipating a record number of aircraft deliveries over the next 10 years (despite current supply chain constraints).
  • The Middle East fleet’s growth over the next decade will primarily be driven by the addition of narrowbodies. Historically, the Middle Eastern fleet has been primarily made up of widebodies. But moving forward, narrowbodies will increase to 48% of the fleet from 39%, while widebodies will decline to 48% from 56%.

However, the Fleet and MRO Forecast also highlights the significant headwinds that the industry will face in the next decade, including tight labor markets globally across almost every aviation job category — from pilots and mechanics to ground crew and air traffic controllers. Oliver Wyman’s analysis finds that the supply gaps already amount to 18% of the total pilot workforce in 2023 and 14% of aviation mechanics.  

Additionally, ongoing production delays linked to supply chain disruption and higher operating costs continue to cloud growth projections globally. While price increases on everything from jet fuel and salaries to aircraft parts already put pressure on airline earnings in 2022, carriers are expected to be in the black globally in 2023, according to the International Air Transport Association. 

Long term, aviation faces a new challenge from the quest for net zero. Despite improved engine efficiency and the anticipated switching out of older, less efficient aircraft for new ones, emissions from aviation are likely to rise over the next decade, given strong demand for air travel and the lack of alternatives to current jet propulsion. This may mean airlines will have to contend with stricter rules moving forward.

On the regional dynamics, André Martins, Partner and the Head of the Transportation, Services and Operations Practices for Oliver Wyman in India, the Middle East and Africa, said: “The aviation industry has played a very important role in the growth of the Middle East region. The well-established players are continuously revamping their commercial models and operations in order to be ready for waves of growth. There are also now new players entering the market, and countries revamping their offerings across the entire value chain. As a result, we expect the Middle East aviation industry to continue to gain importance at the global level.

“With the growth of new airlines and their expected fleets, we also expect that MRO will continue to grow at a very strong pace, and will play an incremental role in the diversification of the region. Also, some of the capability challenges that some other parts of the world are facing will help to fuel the growth of the MRO industry across the Middle East: we have very strong MRO players in the region that are not only serving regional demands, but are also serving European demands, for instance.”

See the full report, including further data analysis, here.


About the Global Fleet and MRO Market Forecast 2023-2033

The 2023-2033 edition of Oliver Wyman’s Global Fleet and MRO Market Forecast represents its more than two-decade commitment to the understanding and assessment of the commercial airline transport fleet and the associated MRO market outlook. The commentary is the go-to resource of aviation executives—whether a manufacturer, operator, or aftermarket provider, as well as for those with financial interests in the sector through private equity firms and investment banks.

This year’s research focuses on the aviation industry’s growth trajectory despite geopolitical and economic headwinds.