Since 2017, Emirates and low-cost airline flydubai have been involved in an “extensive partnership agreement” that they claim goes way beyond merely codesharing on different routes. Both airlines are owned by the government of Dubai but are managed as separate businesses and the partnership wasn’t meant to change that.
Emirates and flydubai said this deal allowed them to join forces to provide a “seamless” experience for passengers by integrating their networks and coordinating schedules, as well as aligning IT systems and operational procedures. In addition, Emirates’ Skywards loyalty programme between the official frequent flyer programme for flydubai.
In just over three years, the two airlines say over 5.2 million passengers have benefitted from the partnership.
But with both Emirates and flydubai facing some serious financial headaches, sources now claim the two carriers are actively exploring ways to align their operations even further. flydubai, in particular, is feeling a financial crunch and admits its performance will continue to suffer in 2020.
Last year, the carrier recorded a loss of US$53.6 million – down 38 per cent on 2018. flydubai’s chief executive, Ghaith Al Ghaith said the grounding of the Boeing 737MAX had a big impact on its financial performance – the airline expects to receive 175 of the planes from Boeing over the next few years, with the current situation seriously hampering growth.
The situation is slightly better at Emirates where the airline recently announced half-year profits of US$235. But Emirates is particularly exposed to the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak, including the possibility of bookings for the Dubai Expo being impacted later this year.
One way in which the carriers are said to be extending their partnership is cross-hiring staff including ground staff and flight attendants. flydubai hasn’t hired any new cabin crew in the last year (which isn’t surprising given the 737MAX problems) but any new hires may come from Emirate’s crew recruitment programme in order to save costs.
There’s also the suggestion that Emirates and flydubai cabin crew will eventually become one fleet, with crew trained to work across the fleet of aircraft that both airlines operate.
At present, flydubai is a single aircraft fleet operator with just the Boeing 737, while Emirates currently only operates the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777. This would give the airlines plenty of flexibility to cross-train crew but the situation will get more complicated in several years…
Emirates’ fleet is set to get a whole lot more diverse with Airbus A350 and A330neo’s, along with the possibility of Boeing 787 Dreamliners coming to the airline as well. That being said, the diversity is no different to many international airlines, including Qatar Airways.
A project of this type, however, would require significant work and wouldn’t necessarily be easy to implement. Contracts would need to be rewritten, safety standards and training materials rewritten and ways of working standardised… No easy task.
There’s said to be no timeline for when a decision will be made to go ahead with the project. The airline has so far declined to comment on the rumor.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.