WingMag Airline Check - Flydubai

Airline Check Flydubai – Flying High, Crashes, New Connections

Esther Nestle
4 pictures
6 minutes

What rhymes with fly? Dubai. Or did the airline movers and shakers originally pose the question the other way round … whatever: With the catchy name Flydubai the Arabian airline latches onto the ear of the aviation world and sticks in the collective passenger memory. Flydubai is quickly becoming firmly established in the low-budget flight business.

Rock bottom was hit 8 years after the maiden flight, on a Saturday in March. A Flydubai day as black as a raven’s wing from which the Arabian airline did not escape unscathed, but which, however, did not force it to its knees permanently. More about that later.

Little sister does her own thing

First Emirates, now Flydubai – one emirate, two airlines. Just like the big emirates airline, Flydubai also flies under the state owner umbrella of the Emirate of Dubai. Flydubai and Emirates are from the same stable, with their home base in Dubai. Initially, the big sister takes the little sister by the hand. But the little one grows quickly, goes her own way and doesn’t become part of the Emirates Group, and still isn’t even today. As little-cheap-sister she moves in “lower” spheres, in comparison, in terms of fleet size, prices and comfort, but there she asserts herself fairly well.

Smaller, cheaper and doubly younger


57 aircraft (*) with the blue-and-orange Flydubai writing, all from the Boeing family, pull circa 11 million passengers (**) through the air annually. For comparison: The fleet of the big-golden-sister Emirates comprises 268 aircraft (***).

(*) As of August 2019

(**) According to Flydubai data for 2018

(***) As of November 2019


Flydubai orientates itself consistently to the slimmed-down prices of other budget airlines. Customers also appreciate the transparent pricing with no hidden costs. The downside of the low-cost airline is revealed by a glance at TripAdvisor. There you find complaints about hard, worn-out seats, charges for on-board entertainment, faulty video screens, and unacceptable food. Others write simply, “you get what you pay for.” But also: “Flight was on time, plane clean, personnel okay.”

Doubly younger

  1. Flydubai started flying only around ten years ago, but in this time it has strongly gained in altitude compared to its 24 year older relative with the golden letters.
  2. The average age of Flydubai’s aircraft of just 4.3 years makes Emirates planes with an average of 6.5 years look almost over the hill.

Competitive leaps of turnover and costs

Annual revenue continues to soar from year to year, most recently (2018) reaching around $1.7 billion. Just stupid that the costs are leaping vigorously as well, and recently have been able to spit at the turnover from on high: Rising fuel costs, driving interest rates and unfavourable exchange rates are tugging away at the profits ever more strongly; in 2018 the costs finally overpower them – the airline reports a LOSS! What now? Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum doesn’t hesitate and issues a new motto. Synergies will fix it.

Dubai rethinks …

… and lets the two sisters, Flydubai and Emirates, move closer together again. Since the end of 2017 the two have been sitting in the same “airboat”, with the aim of profiting from better know-how transfer in both directions. Even more precedent setting is the operations side of the cooperation – coordinated flight schedules, seamless connecting flights in the joint route network with more than 200 destinations, a shared frequent-flyer programme.

Both airlines emphasise that they will continue to act independently, with management teams that act separately from one another.

Black Saturday

Saturday, 19 March 2016. Early in the morning, during the approach flight to the town of Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia, the pilots lose control of the pitch elevator … 60° nosedive … the just 5-year-old Boeing 737-800 rams the ground at 600 kilometres per hour and burns up in a fireball. None of the 62 people aboard the plane escape with their lives. How could such a catastrophe occur? Strong winds had forced the pilots to circle above the town for two hours previously. But the dangerous wind shear didn’t let up. There was sufficient kerosene on board to continue circling or to land at a different airport. But despite this, the landing was initiated in this dangerous situation.

Crash due to pilot error? Human failure? In the following weeks, serious accusations are made. There is talk of permanently fatigued pilots, of unacceptable workloads and massive pressure, even of “discreet” tours of duty not on any official plan. Which concrete measures the aviation authority of the UAE took as a direct result we do not know. However, following their intervention the situation of the Flydubai pilots seems to have improved noticeably. Safety first!

Passenger report exclusively for WingMag

Flydubai passengers report on their flights from Dubai to Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO) in July 2019 and back in September:

Flydubai Dubai–Kilimanjaro B373-800

Flydubai Kilimanjaro–Dubai via Dar es Salaam B373-800

Series ‘Airline Check’

In our series ‘Airline Check’, WingMag looks over the shoulder, behind the jets or propellers and at the plates of selected airlines. In doing so, we don’t want to feed you just the usual information, which you could find anyway with one or two clicks on the corresponding portals. An unbroken historical chronicle, a detailed description of the fleet or similar is also not what we are thinking of. Rather, we intend to unearth that special extra for you and also share with you helpful passenger experiences.

by Esther Nestle

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