02 April 2013

The low-cost carrier has quickly taken market share from its rival

Some 24 years after the launch of Emirates airline, the Dubai government established the low-cost carrier FlyDubai, following a global trend to offer budget options on popular routes. The airline began operations in June 2009. It is headed by chief executive officer Ghaith al-Ghaith, and the chairman is Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, who holds the same role at Emirates and Dubai Airports.

Previously, Sharjah-based Air Arabia was the only low-cost carrier in the UAE. FlyDubai has quickly won market share from its rival, building on the advantage of being based in Dubai.

Today, FlyDubai serves 53 destinations and employs more than 1,500 staff. It added nine routes last year, and in 2013 has already launched services to Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Hail in Saudi Arabia, and Multan and Sialkot in Pakistan. In April, it will begin flying to Juba in South Sudan. At least 30 of FlyDubai’s routes did not have direct links to Dubai before, or were not served by Emirates.

Aircraft usage

FlyDubai operates more than 1,000 flights a week, adhering to the low-cost carrier principle of keeping as many planes as possible in the air at any one time. According to the US’ Honeywell, the airline has one of the highest aircraft utilisation rates in the industry, at 13-16 hours a day.

Between its launch and February 2013, FlyDubai carried 10.4 million passengers. Last year was its strongest performance by far with 5.1 million passengers carried as the airline expanded its services in the GCC and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Passenger numbers within the GCC network grew by 63 per cent in 2012, compared with 21 per cent for all airlines, establishing the carrier as the second-largest airline by passenger numbers to operate out of Dubai International. In the CIS, one of FlyDubai’s strongest markets, its passenger numbers rose by 72 per cent in 2012; the total market in that region grew by 28 per cent.

FlyDubai operates from Terminal 2 at Dubai International airport, which is being expanded to accommodate the airline’s growth. In the long term, the carrier is expected to move to the new Al-Maktoum airport. In 2008, FlyDubai ordered 50 Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft; to date it has taken delivery of 28. A further six will arrive in 2013 and the rest are due by 2016. In February, Sheikh Ahmed said the airline was considering the purchase of an additional 50 new aircraft, including A322 planes from French supplier Airbus. The airline has raised $1.2bn in financing to buy its current fleet.

FlyDubai’s services are unbundled, with extras such as check-in baggage, in-flight entertainment and food charged separately. In 2012, this income accounted for 16.5 per cent of revenues. Total revenue for the year was $756m and net profit was $41.4m. It was the first year since launch that FlyDubai returned a profit.


Date established March 2008


Tel (+971) 4 231 1000

Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum

Chief executive officer Ghaith al-Ghaith

Fleet 28 Boeing 737-800 NGs

Planes on order 22 Boeing 737-800 NGs

Passengers 2012: 5.1 million

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