FlyDubai, the emirate’s first low-cost carrier, will add up to eight new destinations by the end of the year and plans to expand at a faster pace until 2011, despite the downturn in the global aviation market, the airline’s chief executive said.
“We’ve not seen any impact from the financial crisis,” Ghaith al-Ghaith told Zawya Dow Jones in an interview at his Dubai office. “We’re planning to grow as fast next year as we have done since we launched and even faster in 2011.”
The airline, which started operations in June at the height of the economic downturn in the emirate, will focus not only on destinations covered by full-service airlines such as Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways, but also on smaller, secondary cities in the region.
“We’re looking at niche markets and some places that no other airline flies to,” al-Ghaith said, adding that the carrier is looking at destinations in the Indian Subcontinent and the former Soviet Union.
The airline currently flies to Beirut, Amman, Damascus, Aleppo and Alexandria. It also launched a service to Djibouti earlier this month.
In July, it postponed the launch of its flights to India citing “operational issues.” Al-Ghaith declined to comment on when services to the country are likely to start.
FlyDubai will add two more Boeing (B) 737-800 aircraft to its fleet of four this year and may look at new orders next year.
“We’re definitely looking to expand our fleet and we’ll review the situation once this year has passed,” al-Ghaith said.
Last year, the carrier placed an order for 54 Boeing 737-800 narrow-bodied aircraft, including four under a lease arrangement, in deals valued at some $4bn at the Farnborough Airshow in the UK. The aircraft are due for delivery until 2016.
Within the Gulf region, FlyDubai competes with local rivals Sharjah-based Air Arabia and Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways, as well other fully-fledged carriers such as Emirates and Etihad, which are struggling to cope with the impact of a sharp drop in international passenger travel.
Earlier this year, the International Air Transport Association said Middle East carriers are expected to post total losses of $1.5bn this year due to weakening European and Asian markets.
Al-Ghaith said since its launch, FlyDubai’s load factor has been “better than expected”, but declined to give figures. The airline carried its 100,000th passenger in August, three months after launching.