Flydubai 'very concerned' about Boeing aircraft delivery delays, CEO says

US plane maker's potential acquisition of its supplier Spirit AeroSystems is a positive move, Ghaith Al Ghaith says

Flydubai chief executive Ghaith Al Ghaith says the airline has conducted several inspections of Boeing's plants and visited suppliers to make sure production standards are at a high level. Victor Besa / The National
Powered by automated translation

Flydubai's chief executive is concerned about the continued aircraft delivery delays by US plane maker Boeing, joining a chorus of global airline bosses expressing frustration about supply chain woes during a continuing boom in travel demand.

Flydubai, an all-Boeing fleet operator, has conducted several visits to inspect Boeing's plants and its suppliers to make sure production standards are "consistently" at a "high level", Ghaith Al Ghaith told reporters at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai on Monday.

"We are definitely very concerned about the delays and all the negative issues that are in the pipeline or in the media," he said. "But we work closely with Boeing, they work very hard to regain the trust of the customers and we are one of their customers.

"We have teams that interact with Boeing from the highest level to the lowest level, including visiting, not only their plants, but we also visit the suppliers."

Flydubai has grown its network with the addition of five new destinations since the start of 2024 with operations to Al Jouf, Langkawi, Mombasa, Penang and the Red Sea.

The airline said it carried nearly five million passengers between January and April 2024, a 13 per cent increase year-on-year.

"The added capacity has seen more passengers travel with us since the beginning of this year, even though this growth has been dampened by the ongoing delays in aircraft deliveries," Mr Al Ghaith said.

The airline has a fleet of 86 Boeing 737 aircraft: 29 Boeing 737-800s, 54 Boeing 737 Max 8s and 3 Boeing 737 Max 9s.

Boeing has been grappling with a major crisis that erupted in January after a mid-air panel blowout on a new Alaska Airline 737 Max 9.

The plane maker is seeking to buy Spirit AeroSystems, its fuselage supplier and former subsidiary, as it seeks to address quality control issues on its 737 Max narrow-body jets.

The Flydubai chief said Boeing's potential acquisition of its supplier is "very positive".

"This particular action by Boeing shows that they care and it is not, as they had always been blamed, that they look at the margin and then they look at the profit," Mr Al Ghaith said.

The move to buy Spirit to regain control of the supply chain is "a very bold, good commitment from Boeing to show that they are very serious about this. I think, we value that", he added.

Flydubai said it expects six more aircraft to be delivered by the end of this year amid ongoing challenges in supply chain and delays in its delivery schedule.

The airline said it is in the midst of a "multimillion-dollar" project that it launched in January to retrofit its planes. Since then, eight aircraft have had a full cabin refresh with the installation of lie-flat business-class seats and the new economy seats from European seat-maker Recaro that mirror the cabin product on its newer planes in the fleet.

All retrofitted aircraft will be equipped with in-flight entertainment and ensure "a more cohesive and consistent travel experience" for passengers across the fleet, Flydubai said. The airline will keep an all-economy configuration on some of its planes and will upgrade the seats to the new Recaro economy seats with in-flight entertainment.

Flydubai will also increase the seat pitch in business-class on some of its newer aircraft from 45 to 53 inches. This project will be start after the summer.

Flydubai aims to complete the retrofit programme before the end of the year. The project is being carried out by flydubai’s in-house maintenance team and GMR Aerotech MRO.

DWC operations

Dubai's recently announced new passenger terminal at its second airport at Al Maktoum International – the emirate's second hub known as Dubai World Central (DWC) – will give Flydubai "bigger scope to grow", Mr Al Ghaith said.

The airline, which currently operates solely out of its hub in Dubai International Airport (DXB), will move to DWC in gradual phases as work on the new terminal will take 10 years to complete.

Flydubai will start to shift some of its operations to DWC in the "next couple of years", Mr Al Ghaith said. The split operations will continue until it moves completely and permanently to DWC once the terminal is completed.

DXB will be shut down once all its passenger operations have completed the transition to DWC.

During the heavy rain that fell across the country in April forcing airlines to cancel or postpone flights, Flydubai sustained only "minimal" financial losses as two thirds of its affected passengers opted to rebook their flights, Mr Al Ghaith said.

Updated: May 06, 2024, 5:34 PM