Dubai: flydubai passengers will not see any flight cancellations or delays happening because of a shortage of staff at the Dubai-based airline, its CEO said.
“We have not cancelled or delayed a launch of any flight now and (will not do so) in the near future because of shortages of staff,” said Ghaith Al Ghaith, during a pre-recorded interview with aviation analyst John Strickland. A large majority of its staff had opted for unpaid leave at the start of the pandemic, and this meant the airline did not have to make significant fresh hires when air travel demand rebounded in the second-half of 2021.
“We brought to the table an option to receive whatever settlement is contractually applicable or remain a part of the airline and take an unpaid leave – we were very surprised when 97 per cent of the people actually took the unpaid leave,” said Al Ghaith.
flydubai, which took delivery of 11 Boeing 737 MAX jets last year, will add 23 more of those airplanes to its fleet in 2022, said Al Ghaith. The airline, which currently has around 60 aircraft in its fleet, will continue to look at airplanes available in the market to expand its fleet.
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flydubai has been launching more flights to smaller European hubs such as Santorini (Greece) and Pisa (Italy). “This is not the first time we have taken a secondary airport – throughout Europe, there will be more such cities that can be served by us because they will be more attractive to businesses from Dubai,” said Al Ghaith. “We also have a strong middle-class resident population in UAE that would take trips more often.”
The Dubai could not hedge against the high fuel prices, said Al Ghaith, adding that it was now riskier to do so. Many airlines hedge the cost of jet fuel, which involves buying a certain amount of jet fuel at a fixed price for delivery down the track.
“The fact that this happened so suddenly, and you could not even react and hedge and now of course you can hedge but you never know if the price is going to go down,” said Al Ghaith.
The spike in oil prices will result in lower disposable incomes and that does not bode well for air travel demand. “People will save the money that they don’t have to spend and not everyone can afford to travel – moving forward, this will be a huge issue for us,” said Al Ghaith.
The flydubai chief said that Dubai’s Al Maktoum airport will be a part of the airline’s growth strategy. “It will be very important for us”