The story starts nearly two decades ago, in 1985, with Dubai’s frustrated crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. Unable to attract enough international traffic to Dubai’s modest airport, he decided to launch his own airline. Sheikh Mohammed, now Dubai’s ruler, leased a plane from Pakistan International Airlines, and donated a Boeing 727 from his own family’s private fleet. He tasked his chain-smoking uncle, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, with running the operation and hired Maurice Flanagan, a retired British airline executive, to advise him. He gave the two men $10 million in seed capital, and they succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.

What an intelligent gamble that was. As the author states, just look at the world route maps to understand how strategic the new hubs like DXB or AUH are:

Frankfurt and London are to the north, at the far end of the prevailing southeast–northwest traffic flow. Hong Kong and Singapore sit at the far southeastern end of that flow. The U.S. hubs are simply on the wrong side of the globe.

The hubs of legacy carriers are simply in the wrong spots.

The European legacy carriers are obviously not too enthralled. The biggest irony is that Airbus needs those new markets?

Europe is subsidizing the aeronautical rope that Emirates is using to hang European airlines


More often than not, you hear critics pointing out geographic luck and state help as the only factors into the current successes—it's oblivious and naive. The rise of the Gulf carriers has leveraged bigger trends in the region. There are clearly issues in the sustainability of the growth, ranging from the price of oil (a high price facilitates massive investments) to labor laws, from taxation (Dubai is for instance rumored to be introducing it within the next 15 years) to planes like the 787 that can bypass those new hubs—but one cannot just wholly dismiss the civilization experiment that those new economies are undertaking.