ATM 2023: Flydubai in talks with Boeing and Airbus for new jet order

All-Boeing operator may sign agreement by Dubai Airshow in November, chief executive says

Ghaith Al Ghaith, flydubai's chief executive, at the Arabian Travel Market held at Dubai World Trade Centre. Pawan Singh / The National
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Flydubai is in talks with Boeing and Airbus for a new aircraft order to fulfil its fleet requirements for growth and replacement in the next phase of its expansion, the airline's chief executive has said.

The all-Boeing fleet operator is considering both the Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A320 Neo models, head of flydubai Ghaith Al Ghaith told a media roundtable during the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai on Monday. He did not provide the size of the order.

The airline may sign an agreement by the end of the year, Mr Al Ghaith said.

The airline's home base will host the biennial Dubai Airshow in November, when plane makers will vie to announce the highest number of commercial jet deals.

“We are working very closely to try and sign some deals, hopefully by the Dubai Airshow,” Mr Al Ghaith said. He added that the timeline to conclude any pacts was not firm.

“At the end of the day, the aircraft manufacturing market is so competitive, it's a seller's market right now … I would love to do something by the end of the year, hopefully before the air show.”

The airline is exploring opportunities with both plane makers.

“We have a good pipeline of aircraft coming, but in our business, we don't just stop there, we have to buy aircraft at the right time to get the best price possible,” Mr Al Ghaith said.

The airline is considering a fleet plan for when its existing aircraft order is fully delivered.

“We're coming very close to deciding that we need to make a move for more aircraft because there are opportunities but also there is a threat,” he said, referring to high jet prices and extensive backlogs with the manufacturers.

The airline's annual profit surged 43 per cent last year on the back of cost-control measures and World Cup shuttle flights, marking 2022 its second consecutive year of profitability since the Covid-19 pandemic started.

The sister airline of Emirates registered a record full-year profit of Dh1.2 billion ($327 million) in 2022 as the number of passengers it carried rose 89 per cent.

In the first quarter of 2023, the number of passengers that flydubai carried jumped 50 per cent from the same period last year amid strong travel demand, Mr Al Ghaith said.

We expect this surge to continue in the summer of this year and we will be operating a record of five million seats in the summer ... Dubai is in demand more than ever
Ghaith Al Ghaith, flydubai chief executive

“We expect this surge to continue in the summer of this year and we will be operating a record of five million seats in the summer,” he said.

“Dubai is in demand more than ever. I've been in this business for 37 years and I've never seen business as good as last year and what's happening this year, it's incredible.”

Mr Al Ghaith said there had been no impact on travel demand from high oil prices and added he expected demand and yields to remain strong for the rest of the year.

Airfares, which have now reached their peak due to supply and demand, are likely to remain high over the summer, he said.

The airline has launched 12 new routes this year so far, with plans to add nine summer routes, Mr Al Ghaith said. The airline is finalising its winter schedule and may add another one or two routes.

Flydubai showcased its new business seats at the Arabian Travel Market, which it will start introducing from November on its longest routes. Up to six jets will be fitted with the new seats by the first quarter of 2024, Mr Al Ghaith said.

Flydubai expects to take delivery of 17 aircraft in 2023, of which it has already received seven, and will end the year with a total fleet of about 90 jets.

Supply chain problems that delayed aircraft deliveries were at their worst last year, but will continue to be challenging in 2023 before returning to normal in 2024, Mr Al Ghaith said.

Asked about whether Boeing's latest production issue with its 737 Max model has affected flydubai's deliveries, Mr Al Ghaith said: “I know that at least that one aircraft for us is affected this year, maybe later on because Boeing is still checking [their inventory].

“It's an issue but you just have to make sure that you deal with it in a way where safety and security of passengers is the most important thing for airlines and we will manage with the airline manufacturers when it comes to deliveries.”

Updated: May 01, 2023, 5:26 PM