Ghaith Al Ghaith - CEO of flydubai
flydubai CEO reckons it's time the airline industry was less taxed. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: flydubai is 50 per cent ‘bigger’ than it was pre-pandemic, acceding to its CEO Gaith Al Gaith.

“We made a decision to take 30 new aircraft in 2021 and 2022,” said Al Gaith. “We were already preparing our growth plans when the whole of the world was shrinking [due to the pandemic]. “That’s why right now we [flydubai] is actually 50 per cent bigger than we were before.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the 55th Annual General Meeting - AACO, Al Gaith said that the UAE was the first country to open up after the initial COVID months, and that flydubai started accepting passenger bookings in March 2020. “By November 2020, the airline was cash positive.”

Growth acceleration

Al Gaith said that staff retention was one of the greatest advantages for the airline. “One of the things that worked out well for flydubai is that we did not let go of our staff,” he said. flydubai gave its staff an option to retain their jobs with no pay and Al Gaith said that 97 per cent of staff choose to stay, which was a big advantage for the airline during its recovery phase from the pandemic.

He said that the UAE’s open-minded approach during the pandemic and hosting Expo2020 was a big win. “This created a strong demand by the people who come for business and for leisure and hence we have the confidence now as an airline, that we can be bigger and better because our country is now a stronger product.”

New lessons

On being asked about the key takeaways from the pandemic, Al Gaith suggested that the world should never close its borders again. “It has to be loud and clear because it had crippled the industry during in onset of the pandemic.”

Investing more

Last year, IATA member airlines agreed to commit to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The is in line with the Paris agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The new industry target will take a combination of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), radical airframe designs, carbon capture technology, and offsetting.

To reach the green goal, Al Gaith called upon key stakeholders to invest in technology and research. He said the aviation industry is one of the most taxed sectors and reckons some portion of it must be reinvested in R&D to find more sustainable and affordable ways to fly. “Unless we invest in research and development, enough to bring game-changing technology to the industry, nothing will happen,” he said. “This is crucial because once we start researching, manufacturers can bring in more sustainable and affordable solutions ahead of time.”

Al Ghaith also suggested that travellers pay carbon charges to offset emissions. “Realistically, do passengers care as much as you think?” he said. “Nobody wants to pay more, so if you want to put a tax just add it to the ticket. It should not be done on a voluntary basis.”

flydubai-Emirates partnership
flydubai flies to over 70 destinations that are not served to and from Dubai, and that’s why its chief Al Gaith calls the flydubai-Emirates partnership crucial and complementary.

“We’ve carried over 8.3 million passengers in partnership with Emirates and we feel that there is a huge synergy between us looking at our network and we take advantage of that,” said Al Gaith. “And Dubai as a hub is actually stronger with flydubai and Emirates working together.”