Flydubai CEO calls for ‘open skies’ arrangement between UAE and India – Business Traveller

Ghaith Al Ghaith, chief executive officer at Dubai-based carrier flydubai, has called for an ‘open skies’ agreement between India and the UAE. He pointed out to the benefits that such an agreement could have for the aviation sector of both countries.

“India is a huge market for us. We should have an open skies arrangement between us and India. Especially now with the India and UAE partnership leading to the creation of a trade corridor, aviation should also be liberated too. If that happens the potential is endless,” said Al Ghaith on Tuesday at a press briefing that Business Traveller Middle East attended. He added that the UAE and Sri Lanka are in the process of concluding “a very aggressive open skies policy”.

His remarks come as the airline reported that it carried more than four million passengers between June and mid-September 2023. That figure, it said, represented an increase of 30 per cent compared to the same period in 2022. The carrier operated more than 32,000 flights across a network of 120 destinations in 52 countries.

Al Ghaith said that the operations of the airline would have been better had its aircraft been delivered on schedule. He cited global supply chain issues as one of the reasons for the delayed delivery of aircraft, a phenomenon that he said airlines worldwide are facing.

Flydubai operates a fleet of 78 Boeing 737s. It is anticipating further delays to its scheduled aircraft deliveries this year. “We are in constant discussion with Boeing. The challenges with aircraft deliveries have been ongoing for the last two years. We were supposed to get nine aircraft between now and the end of the year, but if we get four, we will be lucky. The balance five will likely come next year. Next year’s deliveries could also be under stress,” cautioned Al Ghaith.

Flydubai has signed an agreement to lease four Next-Generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft between October 17, 2023, and April 16, 2024, to mitigate the situation. “We are also in discussion to extend the rental of a further two aircraft that are currently leased to us,” noted Al Ghaith.

“We have recorded a 70 per cent increase in passenger numbers to Trabzon and more than 40 per cent to Bodrum this summer. We believe these figures could have potentially been even higher if the aircraft we ordered had been delivered on schedule. This would have enabled us to add more capacity on some of these popular routes,” added Al Ghaith.

Corfu in Greece and Olbia in Sardinia were the recent additions to the airline’s route network, and it has also announced the launch of operations to three new destinations. Its daily service to Cairo will begin on October 28, Poznan, its third destination in Poland, commences on October 29, and Mombasa is scheduled to join its network from January 17, 2024.

To support the airline’s growth in operations, the carrier is on a recruitment drive. Al Ghaith said that the current employee numbers stand at 5,300. “We’ve completed recruiting 800 staff and have another 200-300 recruitments to be completed this year. The majority of the people we are recruiting now come from Dubai and this shows the maturity of the marketplace here.”

(Image: Supplied by flydubai)

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