Budget carrier mature beyond its first year

flydubai has sold almost a million tickets ahead of its anniversary next week.

Powered by automated translation

The budget carrier flydubai celebrates its first anniversary next week, having sold almost 1 million tickets after building a fleet of eight new aircraft flying to 16 destinations. Analysts say its rapid growth outpaced the first year of any other budget airline. This has made the no-frills airline a real rival for the Sharjah-based Air Arabia, which is the first and most profitable budget airline in the region.

In the next month flydubai will add four destinations from its base at Dubai International Airport: Istanbul in Turkey; Latakia in Syria; Lucknow in India; and Karachi in Pakistan. "Expansion has been stellar really," said Alistair Rivers, the regional sales director at Innovata, which publishes flight schedules for the travel industry. "The June figures for flydubai mean that they are already at over 75 per cent of Air Arabia's weekly seats, after only being in business a year."

Saj Ahmad, the chief analyst at FBE Aerospace in the UK, said the airline's first year was unmatched by any of the low-cost carriers such as easyJet, Ryanair, Southwest Airlines or Air Asia. "flydubai is indeed the fastest-growing airline less than a year into its operations," Mr Ahmad said, pointing to a symbiotic relationship with Emirates Airline, the full-service carrier also owned by the Dubai Government.

"The only way a budget airline such as Southwest or Ryanair would have grown faster is if they had a de facto parent airline like Emirates assisting them with huge volumes of feeder traffic through their hubs." Ghaith al Ghaith, the chief executive of flydubai, stopped short of calling the carrier's first year a record but promised the growth would continue. "We are delighted to take Dubai's low-cost carrier as a theory into the reality of flydubai being one of the fastest-growing start-up airlines ever," Mr al Ghaith said.

"We've had a great start and there is a lot more to come, with another five aircraft, lots more destinations and inflight entertainment due by the end of 2010." According to flight schedule data from Innovata, flydubai launched with 28 weekly flights to just two destinations from its base in Dubai: Amman and Beirut. One year later it will be operating 388 flights a week. That adds up to 73,332 seats a week, compared with 4732 when it started, Mr Rivers said.

The figures show flydubai grew about three times faster than Air Arabia in its first year of operations, after it launched in 2003, in terms of weekly flights and seats offered. igale@thenational.ae