Dubai: Flydubai’s Russia expansion plans could hit a roadblock following Saturday’s crash. The airline was already seeing demand dampening on the route owing to weak rouble against the US dollar and fluctuating oil prices, which reflected in the flight FZ981 flying only a third of its full capacity.

Flydubai launched two new Russian routes last year, bringing its Russian network to ten destinations.

However, passenger numbers on the Russian routes fell 22 per cent last year, flydubai had said in a recent statement.

The airline launched the Rostov-on-Don route in September 2013. It used to fly to as many as 11 Russian destinations at one point but has since cut back on some.

The airline had said late last year that “dampening of demand” from Russia and former Soviet states was expected to be “temporary”.

Meanwhile, there has been a reduction of around 70 per cent in Russian tourist arrivals to the UAE from 2014 to 2015, according to Marina Mozova, a spokeswoman for Visit Russia, the Russian National Tourist Office.

The Russian economy has staggered over the past 20-odd months due to the impact of western sanctions and the falling oil price.

And as a result the spend by Russian tourists in the UAE has fallen over the last year. In the first nine months of 2015, spend by Russian tourists fell 57 per cent, according to a report by Network International, which is based on credit and debit card transactions in the UAE.

“This is the first time we’ve seen a crash from a UAE airline. This is going to have a major psychological dent on the UAE because they never in the history of UAE aviation had a crash or an event of any kind,” said Mark Martin, an aviation analyst and founder of Dubai-based Martin Consultancy.

Andrew Charlton, managing director of Aviation Advocacy based in Switzerland, added: “I think flydubai will see this through. Their handling of the situation so far has been very good.”