DUBAI: Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central (DWC) will continue to be a tough sell for operator Dubai Airports even with the recent news that flydubai is planning a move over, analysts say.
DWC has attracted just one major foreign carrier, Qatar Airways, since passenger flights started in October 2013 with Bahrain’s Gulf Air, Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways and Europe’s Wizz Air.
And at least two airlines, Germany’s Eurowings and Saudi Arabia’s flynas, have said they would fly to the airport to only change their mind and fly to the emirate’s premier airport, Dubai International, instead.
But last week, flydubai confirmed what has been widely believed for the past 18 or so months. It will move all of its operations from the Dubai International over to DWC.
“We’re slowly moving flydubai to that side,” Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates airline and Group and Chairman of flydubai, said on Wednesday.
It is unclear when exactly flydubai will move all of its flights to the new airport, though, Dubai Airports Chief Executive Paul Griffiths told Gulf News on Monday the majority of the airline’s operations will be there by 2020.
This would be a substantial increase in operations for the airport, which handled just 209,989 passengers in the first-half of 2015 compared to the 38.29 million at Dubai International, according to the Dubai Airports website.
Flydubai carried 7.25 million passengers in 2014, about the current capacity of DWC, which is to be expanded in phases to ultimately be able to handle 240 million passengers a year.
Dubai Airports have said they are expanding capacity to 26 million passengers a year to be completed by 2018, which is believed to be when flydubai will start shifting its operations.
But flydubai moving over is hardly going to be enough for full-service carriers at Dubai International to follow suit, Will Horton, senior analyst at CAPA — Centre for Aviation, told Gulf News by email.
“DWC has two main challenges: operational constraints and market perception. Operationally, DWC’s current facility is a functional terminal suitable for some LCCs (low cost carriers),” he said.
Flydubai already flies 70 times week from DWC and moving its operations will give it a monopoly on traffic, Addison Schonland, founder and partner at AirInsight, told Gulf News by email. DWC is roughly 65 kilometres by road from Dubai International.
But other airlines, who rely on feeding from connecting traffic at Dubai International, are likely to wait for Emirates, the largest carrier at Dubai International, to make a decision, he added.
Emirates, which carried 25.7 million passengers in the six months to September 30, 2015, has said it won’t be shifting until at least 2025, when capacity is to be 120 million passengers a year.
Carriers will also be mindful of where their passengers want to fly to and from.
“Airlines may find their catchment area will be closer to DXB (Dubai International) for some time to come,” Horton said.
DWC is at the heart of a planned major business and residential development, including the Expo 2020 site, but at least for now the bulk of activity in the emirate is closer to Dubai International.
But John Strickland, Director of JLS Consulting, believes the flydubai shift “will be a clear promotional message from flydubai.”
“[It] will bring some scale and credibility to DWC,” he told Gulf News by email.