Dubai’s entrepreneurial ruler Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum at first resisted the idea of low cost carriers operating from Dubai’s futuristic airport terminal but as part of a strategy to continue the rapid growth his emirate has enjoyed he agreed to plans to launch Flydubai in 2008 which now operate from Dubai’s Terminal 2. The emir’s son Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum is chairman of Dubai’s five star airline, Emirates and Dubai’s single class discount carrier Flydubai. The new airline was established with Emirates expertise but now operates entirely independently. Like other low cost carriers the airline operates a single aircraft type fleet of Boeing 737’s which typically have a flying range of up to five hours from Dubai. Marketing efforts between Emirates and Flydubai exist as the new airline does not try and poach customers from their prestigious peer. The route map deliberately focuses on destinations that Emirates do not serve, however there is some overlapping. Flydubai’s customers are generally Dubai emirate’s guest workers. In 2009 Flydubai took delivery of their first aircraft and commenced services on 1 June to Beirut and Amman. Their network has expanded rapidly and exceeds 50 routes. When long range Boeing 737-900’s arrive services as far as Thailand will be possible. In the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis Irish aircraft leasing company Avolon purchased and leased back much of Flydubai’s fleet.
Flydubai’s young and multi-lingual crew are nicely attired in a sky brue uniform and perform their duties with a smile. However the on-board experience is not particularly exciting as all extras will cost. The only service passengers will receive are the ones they paid for when booking or during the flight.
In a very short time Flydubai has expanded to over 50 routes with a new one being announced every eight weeks on average. The airline serves many new routes that previously did not exist with a focus on linking Dubai with the home country of guest workers and low cost travel destinations. Dubai is popular with Russians and Ukrainians and they airline serves many routes there including many off-the-beaten-track destinations like Ufa on Donetsk.
Price is the only reason most passengers book Flydubai. They are cheap, especially if you are travelling with no baggage and don’t plan to eat or watch TV. There are a variety of fares and its wise to check the details of the ticket as date change fees can prove expensive. The airline’s excess baggage is expensive and their airport rate is higher than the booking rate, so it’s best to pay at the time of booking the ticket. Tickets can be paid for on-line, over the phone, at travel agents and many innovative locations such as the post office or supermarkets.
Passengers used to Emirates flights will be very disappointed with Flydubai’s limited range of mostly junk food snacks, wraps and instant foods. The airline’s coffee is not good and sophisticated passengers will not appreciate being served meals in plastic cups and plates. Innovatively, passengers order from their seat via the IFE (in-flight entertainment) unit and crew will deliver your order.
Flydubai have an excellent HD (High Definition) TV screen for each passenger however the entertainment options must be paid for. For AED 10 (US$2.75) passengers will receive the Basic package of channels while for AED 30 (US$7.25) the Premium package is yours, with 190 movie options, plus TV and games. Payment can be done when booking the ticket or on board. Movie choices include top Hollywood, Bollywood and Arabic language blockbusters and many classics.
Check-in staff are pleasant, but passengers accustomed to Dubai’s amazing Terminal 1 may be disappointed by their low-cost Terminal 2, however it compares favourably with other low cost terminals such as Singapore’s or Luton. Checking with no baggage is breeze but passengers with excess luggage will be stung and watching the arguing passengers is not a pleasant sight. Baggage is handled very efficiently in Dubai, even for connecting flights. Flydubai passengers can transfer their baggage to connecting Emirates and Flydubai flights when checking in and passengers connecting with other airlines can do so at Dubai Airport’s Transfer Desk but Flydubai will not take responsibility for misconnections if their flight is delayed. Travel Insurance is a must for connecting passengers.
Flydubai is a single class airline, however it is not comparably to Economy on Emirates.
Passengers who pre-book their luggage, pay for the entertainment and meals may find the experience pleasant while those unused to paying for ‘extras’ may not enjoy constantly opening their wallets. The airline’s baggage allowance isn’t generous.
Flydubai has not announced any plans to operate or partner with a frequent flyer scheme.
In many ways Flydubai is one of the world’s best run low-cost carriers. The airline presents a nice facade to the world and behind the scenes the carrier is supported by an intelligent and enthusiastic team of experts. Managers are expected to perform and so far they are delivering the goods. Crew and managers seem to work together harmoniously.
Flydubai’s brand new fleet has an average age of less than two years old per aircraft and their pilots are recruited from around the world. With new planes and skilled pilots they are off to a good start. The airline has been involved in one ‘near miss’ over the crowded skies of Dubai but has had no accidents.
If you’re on a tight budget and want to go from A to B without ‘extras’ then Flydubai is a good choice.
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