UAE-India flights: Flydubai CEO calls for ‘Open Skies’ policy to boost tourism

Dubai-based carrier posted passenger volume at 30 per cent higher than last year’s summer

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Published: Thu 21 Sep 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 21 Sep 2023, 7:54 AM

The CEO of Dubai-based carrier flydubai has called for an ‘Open Skies’ policy between the UAE and India, noting that this arrangement will bring better benefits to boost tourism in both countries.

Ghaith Al Ghaith remarked during a recent virtual press briefing where he announced that flydubai posted a robust summer this year, flying over four million passengers from June until mid-September.

He noted that India is a huge market, and now that there is a trade corridor between UAE and India, the aviation sector should be liberalised as well. “The aviation sector should be liberated as the potential is endless,” he underscored.

An ‘Open Skies’ agreement is about granting access to national airports for foreign airlines. It entails removing restrictions on flight frequencies, seats and cities airlines can serve, which will result in ease of travel and increased tourist flow.

In line with his call, Al Ghaith also noted Emirates and SriLankan Airlines have recently signed a reciprocal interline agreement to boost connectivity for passengers of both airlines. This partnership will enable access to new points on each other’s networks via Colombo and Dubai, utilising a single ticket and enjoying the convenience of baggage transfers.

Creating free trade and tourism

Meanwhile, flydubai operated over 32,000 flights across a growing network of 120 destinations in 52 countries this past summer. Al Ghaith said the Dubai-based carrier posted passenger volume at 30 per cent higher than last year’s summer.

He said: “We continue to create free trade and tourism flows by offering the right product at the right time, making travel accessible to new and previously underserved markets. By doing so, we have enabled more than four million passengers to travel this summer via Dubai’s aviation hub.”

“We are very pleased to see year-on-year growth in demand on our seasonal destinations. We have recorded a 70 per cent increase in passenger numbers to Trabzon (Turkey) and more than 40% to Bodrum (another city in Turkey) this summer,” he added.


However, Al Ghaith noted, “The 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.”

Flydubai is expecting further delays to its scheduled aircraft deliveries this year until 2024. To mitigate this, the carrier has signed an agreement to lease four next-generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft between October 17 and April 16, 2024.

Another challenge in the airline industry is the rising fuel prices. When asked by Khaleej Times if flydubai would consider absorbing a loss in profit by reducing ticket prices to encourage more people to travel, Al Ghaith said it would be very challenging. The airline will have to consider profitability, which is why it implements fuel surcharges – like other airlines – to ensure its operations.

Expansion and recruitment

The prospects are bright. The Dubai-based airline operates a fleet of 78 Boeing 737s and has recently announced the launch of operations to three new destinations. Its daily service to Cairo will start on October 28, while Poznan – its third destination in Poland – will begin on October 29, and Mombasa (Kenya) is scheduled to join its expanding network from January 17 next year. Corfu in Greece and Olbia in Sardinia were the latest additions to flydubai’s seasonal summer routes this year.

Staff recruitment has also taken a smooth flight as flydubai’s workforce now stands at 5,300, including 800 who were recently hired. Al Ghatih said there will be another 200 to 300 recruitments this year from Dubai.

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