Based in countries where there is a smaller population and where the home market is limited, Gulf carriers must tap the biggest markets of Europe, Asia and the Americas, if they wish to develop.
They have therefore seized the opportunity of sixth freedom traffic, that is to say the possibility of carrying passengers from one foreign market to another via the operator's original market.
Spearheading the region's development strategy, and emblematic of the economic success of the UAE, Gulf carriers benefit from financial support from their local state, which provides a wide array of services: airports, civil aviation authorities, airport and navigation charges, and finally complementary infrastructure.
Furthermore, these airlines enjoy a favourable tax environment, as there is no corporate tax or social security charges in their country.
This situation gives the Gulf carriers a competitive edge over European airlines, and makes for unfair competition.
Emirates was the forerunner of this development model, and was subsequently imitated in the region by Qatar Airways and Etihad, which have posted impressive growth targets.
Based on the high growth rates forecast, these carriers intend to introduce the very wide-bodied A380 in their fleet plan. However it would seem difficult to meet all their growth targets, as their operating bases are only a few kilometres away from each other.