Flydubai will reduce its order of Boeing 737 Max aircraft by slightly more than 25 per cent as part of a fleet review amid the Covid-19 pandemic that has severely affected the global aviation industry.
The budget airline reached an agreement with the US plane maker to reduce its order from 237 aircraft to 172, a flydubai spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
"The changes to flydubai’s aircraft order follows a review of its fleet plans in line with the airline’s strategy of rebuilding the travel sector following the Covid-19 pandemic and the changing dynamics of the airline’s route structure," flydubai said.
The Covid-19 pandemic hit the global aviation industry hard, forcing airlines to preserve cash by grounding aircraft, deferring or cancelling plane deliveries and laying off or furloughing employees.
The Chicago-based company has been trying to restore confidence in the 737 Max – its best-selling model – that recently resumed flights after a two-year global ban prompted by two fatal crashes.
"We value our strong partnership with flydubai and regret the significant impact that the 737 Max grounding has had on their business," Boeing said.
"We are pleased to have reached a solution that helps them manage through that and the impact of the pandemic, and adjust their fleet requirements accordingly."
The all-Boeing operator adjusted the plane orders it placed in 2013 and 2017 during the Dubai Airshow, where it made headlines with record aircraft purchases.
The state-owned airline currently has a fleet of 52 Boeing 737 jets. Of these, it operates 13 Max 8s and three Max 9s. It also has 36 Boeing 737-800s, the predecessor to the Max.
Flydubai took delivery of two Boeing 737 Max 8 jets in June and a further 11 aircraft will join the fleet by the end of the year, it said.
In May, the airline's chief executive Ghaith Al Ghaith said he was optimistic about air travel demand during this summer, depending on the travel restrictions of other countries. The airline also asked staff furloughed during the Covid-19 pandemic last year to return to work from June in time for the summer travel season, he added.
The low-cost carrier is also gradually expanding its routes as movement restrictions ease. It announced new seasonal summer routes to six popular holiday destinations. These include the Greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos from June 18, to Turkey's Bodrum and Trabzon on June 4 and June 24, respectively, and to Italy's Naples and Austria's Salzburg in July.
Flydubai is also restarting seasonal flights to Batumi in Georgia from June 25. It will be the airline's second destination in the country, with flights already operating to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.
To Montenegro, flydubai will restart seasonal services to Tivat from Friday, June 25. The country has reopened to tourists from the UAE, with only a negative PCR test needed to enter.
"Demand for travel has started to increase as more countries gradually lift restrictions on international travel," Mr Al Ghaith said in a statement on May 25. "