Dubai’s very own homegrown low-cost airline aptly named flydubai will celebrate its 10th birthday in just over a month’s time – it doesn’t feel like the government-owned carrier has been around for that long at all but flydubai actually started flying on 1st June 2009.
In this relatively short time, flydubai has grown to an all Boeing 737 fleet of 63 aircraft and now operates flights to over 90 destinations in 47 countries – many of which weren’t previously served by big brother Emirates Airlines (or for that matter, any other airline).
In just the last few weeks, flydubai has launched flights to Sochi, Tashkent in Uzbekistan and Kozhikode in Kerala.
Not that flydubai is like many other low-cost carriers. The airline decided to introduce a Business Class cabin in 2013 and last year it even launched a proper fully lie-flat seat (although that product features on the 737 MAX which is, of course, currently grounded). Even Economy Class passengers get access to free entertainment on individual seatback TV’s (more than can be said for Etihad now).
Although the journey hasn’t been completely plain sailing. Like many airlines, flydubai has been hit hard by a variety of factors, especially the sharp rise in fuel prices. Last year, the airline made a loss $43.5 million USD and although revenues have been steadily improving, 2019 is likely to be another challenging year.
Since 2017, flydubai has also been much more closely aligned with Emirates – the two airlines now have an extensive codeshare agreement but the partnership goes a lot further than that. They now also share a rewards programme and many back-office functions and their business plans try to compliment one another.
Essentially, flydubai and Emirates share the same goal of building Dubai’s economy, especially through inbound tourism. The decision to bring the two airlines closer together put a plan to shift all of flydubai’s operations to Dubai World Central airport on the back burner.
At this years Arabian Travel Market trade fair, the airline was named “Best Low-Cost airline serving the Middle East” at the Business Traveller Middle East Awards
flydubai still has some way to go to beat Sharjah-based Air Arabia though. Founded in 2003, Air Arabia is now the largest low-cost airline in the Middle East and serves 155 destinations with an all Airbus fleet. Despite, the problems with the Boeing 737 MAX, the chief executive of flydubai has said he still has faith in Boeing although might consider awarding future aircraft orders to another manufacturer.
Here’s to another 10 years!