A major decision is expected over the next couple of days in terms of how the enhanced code-sharing agreement between Emirates Airline and Flydubai, announced in the summer, will affect both airlines’ operations.
A key issue in synchronising the two airlines’ flights is the geographical location of their hubs. Emirates operates all flights from Terminal 3, while Flydubai operates flights mainly from Terminal 2, which is on the opposite end of Dubai International airport. The low-cost carrier also operates flights from Al-Maktoum International, which is roughly 60km away.
One option being considered is to move Flydubai into Terminal 3. This makes sense since Qantas, the only other international airline that uses the terminal apart from Emirates, will no longer be flying there starting March 2018. However, it is unlikely that the space to be released by Qantas flights will be sufficient to accommodate Flydubai’s rapidly growing traffic.
The other option entails moving Flydubai to Terminal 1, which is on the same side as Terminal 3.
Both options will require optimisation of these terminals to increase capacity, which will be a huge challenge since there is hardly any room to physically expand any of the terminals at Dubai International due to its location.
It must be recalled that this constraint facilitated the construction of Al-Maktoum International eight years ago.
Indeed the enhanced code-sharing agreement between the two airlines has aborted Flydubai’s plan to migrate all flights to Al-Maktoum International airport supposedly this month.
It must be noted the ongoing expansion of the terminal at Al-Maktoum International, from its current capacity of 5 million passengers to 26 million passengers a year, is meant to accommodate Flydubai’s traffic when it moves its full operations there.
A key consideration in the final decision would be giving passengers the most convenient experience possible when connecting between Emirates and Flydubai flights.
Flydubai passengers, for instance, are used to a smaller terminal that is navigable within 15 minutes from check-in to departure, unlike in Terminal 3, which requires a much longer navigation time due to the distance between the terminal and the concourses where the gates are located.
It must be noted, too, that the enhanced code-sharing agreement between the two airlines aims, among other things, to allow a more effective use of airplane capacity, especially on routes where Flydubai’s 737-800s and new 737 MAX 8s are easier to fill than Emirates’ larger 777-300ERs or A380s and vice versa. This would minimise overlap in certain routes particularly in markets like Beirut, which both airlines serve heavily. Such strategy will help avoid price erosion in ticket prices, which in turn will ease pressure on yields.
Both airlines, however, must be careful to execute their plan to achieve greater operational efficiencies without sacrificing passenger’s convenience.
In addition, merging the operational hubs of the two airlines at Dubai International is expected to elicit more questions on the timeline of the $33bn expansion of Al-Maktoum International, which was originally expected to be completed in 2025, the same year Emirates said it was aiming to shift its operations there.