While flydubai is currently wrangling with the Boeing 737 controversy, it is important to remember that the company is nearing its 10-year anniversary, and achieving success in such a competitive industry has been no easy feat.
So, today, we look back at how flydubai started, and how one of the region’s first low-cost carriers truly carved a name for itself.
Scaling up, and fast
When it was officially set up in March 2008 by the Government of Dubai, flydubai was not the first low-cost carrier (LCC) on the scene. Air Arabia, the Sharjah-based airline, beat them to the punch in 2003. However, flydubai succeeded in carving out a unique identity for itself. The Dubai LLC carried out its inaugural flight on June 1, 2009, to Beirut.
“Flydubai’s emergence at the 2008 Farnborough Air Show with an order for 50 Boeing 737-800s created headlines,” Saj Ahmad, Chief Analyst at StrategicAero Research, told AMEinfo. “All that was known about the airline was that the Government of Dubai alongside the leadership of Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed would develop the region’s first true low cost airline.”
By the end of June, flydubai was flying to Amman, Damascus and Alexandria, and after just 3 months, it had already flown 100,000 passengers.
By July 2010, the airline had carried its 1 millionth passenger. At this point, the company had 16 destinations around the world, a fleet of nine Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
Serving the niche
flydubai’s growth was made possible through its innovative business model. The company did well to capitalize on underserved markets, sending out its economic flights to them.
“flydubai has enabled its customers to reach places that weren’t accessible before – its expansion into Eastern Europe, Russia and across Africa has proven a huge success and it stands to reason that the airlines maturity has evolved to showcase its prowess as the hybrid/low cost airline of choice,” Ahmad said. “This unique business model has allowed the airline to harness revenue that regional competitors cannot offer.”
According to the carrier, flydubai opened up more than 71 new routes that did not previously have direct air links to Dubai or were not served by a UAE national carrier from Dubai.
Recently, its success has been boosted by strategic code-sharing agreements with airlines such as sister carrier Emirates (partnered in October 2017). According to Emirates, the two airlines jointly flew 3.29 million travellers across 84 destinations in 2018.
Historic aircraft orders
flydubai’s major success is reflected in its ever-expanding fleet.
The airline has long since operated as a single fleet-type carrier, employing the services of their long-reliable Boeing 737-800s.
In 2013, the airline announced a historic commitment to Boeing aircraft: an order of 100 737 MAXs (8 and 9) and 11 Next-Generation 737-800s. In 2014, the order was finalized for 75 planes. It received its first 737 MAX 8 in 2017, becoming the first Middle Eastern airline to do so.
2017 was also witness to the largest single-aisle jet orderin Middle East history, where flydubai finalized the purchase of 175 Boeing 737 MAX airplanes in a deal worth $27 billion at current list prices. This deal made flydubai Boeing’s 2ndmost valuable customer of 737 MAXs in the world, and the 1stin the Middle East.
Flydubai, 10 years later
10 years after its inaugural commercial flight, flydubai is now making more than 1,400 flights a week with over 500 pilots and 1,000 cabin crew taking thousands of passengers to destinations throughout the region. It has carried more than 70 million passengers since it began operations in 2009, seeing numerous innovations across its history.
“From taking the 7,000th 737, launching the Boeing Sky Interior to becoming the first airline to introduce a dedicated Business Class cabin product – flydubai remains the world’s fastest growing airline with nearly 100 city pairs under its belt – of which nearly two-thirds never existed before the airline came into being,” Ahmad noted. “Flydubai was also the first airline to innovate with HD fiber-to-the-screen seat back IFE where customers can pay to watch movies, order meals or buy products – this feat is now replicated by many airlines the world over.”
Key Results for 2018 (as per flydubai’s official earnings report, February 2019)
-flydubai reports total annual revenue of $1.7 billion compared to $1.5 billion last year; an increase of 12.4% compared to the same period the previous year
-Second-Half Profit sees annual loss reduced to $43.5 million
-Total annual operating cost includes a price impact of $112 million in fuel costs
-10.9 million passengers travelled across the flydubai network; a moderate year on year increase
-Took delivery of a total of 7 new Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft