Emirates and flydubai are working fast to ratchet up a bigger slice of the regional aviation market as competition intensifies.
Since the two Dubai-based airlines revealed their tie-up in July, they have launched codeshare routes to 45 destinations as part of plans to build a joint network of 240 destinations by 2022.
On Tuesday, the carriers added 16 destinations; among them, markets termed as “exotic” by Emirates, including Zanzibar, Kathmandu and Kilimanjaro. Others included Chittagong, Bratislava, Djibouti and Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen – which are either key destinations serving the UAE’s large expat workforce, or important trading and tourism hubs for the emirates.
Emirates president Tim Clark said nearly 14,000 sectors or legs of a route had been ticketed during the first week of operation, “surpassing our expectations” and demonstrating strong demand.
Certainly, the expanded codeshare agreement gives Emirates and flydubai customers greater choice, as the airlines secure wider reach and a competitive edge in an increasingly fierce market.
Under the deal, the carriers said they would offer increased schedule alignment, fleet and network sharing, as well as alignment of frequent flyer programmes. The news was welcome after shaky financial announcements by both airlines in the preceding 12 months, attributed to currency volatility and competition.
Emirates, for example, reported a 70 per cent year-on-year profit drop for the financial year ending March 31, while flydubai widened its losses of Dh142.5 million in the first six months to the end of June from losses of Dh89.9m for the same period in 2016.
Both airlines have insisted they will continue to operate independently, but changes clearly had to be made. Under the expanded codeshare deal, the carriers have the opportunity to reduce any network duplication while making sure they have the right aircraft size according to demand.
For instance, Emirates can dispense with the need to buy narrow-body aircraft to serve short-haul destinations, while flyDubai can offer flights on Emirates' network, without having to buy wide-body planes for long-haul flights.
The two carriers can capture greater market share by offering an end-to-end service on routes without losing any gains from higher load factors. This will, of course, make life harder for their direct rivals, and, ultimately, strengthen Dubai's overall aviation footprint.
It remains to be seen whether the Emirates-Flydubai tie-up is deepened in any more formal way in the future, but any collaboration is a win-win move.