New United Arab Emirates low-cost carrier FlyDubai kicked off firm order announcements at this year’s Farnborough International yesterday morning with a $4 billion purchase of 50 CFM56-7B-powered Boeing 737-800s. It also plans to lease an additional four machines from Babcock & Brown Aircraft Management. Under the terms of the contract, FlyDubai may convert orders for the aircraft to 737-900ERs.
Rather than appear to emulate other established LCCs, FlyDubai chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum said the airline would follow its own business model, using a plan Boeing chairman, president and chief executive Jim McNerney described only as “innovative.” It will offer direct flights only, with no interlining or connectivity, from Jebel Ali.
Targeted passengers, including both business and leisure travelers, will have the option to pay for services such as checked or excess baggage, food and ticket flexibility. FlyDubai plans to offer flexible hotel, car hire, insurance and visa services.
The new LCC is currently recruiting staff. “Our core business is providing no-frills flights to and from Dubai, itself a brand synonymous with excellence, reliability and an international, pro-business approach,” according to Sheikh Ahmed.
Initially, Emirates Airline will help the new airline get established, contributing “all support, as required, up to its first flight.” FlyDubai will not be part of the Emirates Group, however. Former Emirates worldwide commercial operations executive vice president Ghaith al Ghaith serves as FlyDubai’s first chief executive.
The government of Dubai formed the airline four months ago and plans to provide “flexible travel options that are simple, effective and good value.” FlyDubai will operate flights of up to 4.5 hours in duration, enabling it to serve a potential customer base of almost two billion people.
Initial services will encompass high-demand tourist destinations in Gulf Co-operation Council States and surrounding countries before extending to the whole Middle East region, North and East Africa, Southeast Europe, and the Indian subcontinent. The airline expects a large portion of its customer base to consist of expatriate residents of Dubai and the whole UAE, for whom FlyDubai plans to offer “more opportunities to travel home [to] visit family.”
The airline plans to start services in mid-2009, and it expects deliveries of the 189-seat, single-class aircraft to run through 2016. Availability of aircraft on relatively short notice, given Boeing’s extensive current order backlog, reflects the flexibility of the manufacturer’s lease partners, said Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Scott Carson. The airframes involved in early deliveries, for example, might have been earmarked for leasing companies.