Ghaith Al Ghaith, Chief Executive Officer at flydubai
Ghaith Al Ghaith, Chief Executive Officer at flydubai, during an interview with Gulf News at Arabian Travel Market 2024. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Emirates’ sister carrier, flydubai, is set to divide its operations between Dubai International (DXB) and Al Maktoum International (DWC) within the ‘next couple of years’, the airline CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith revealed during discussions at the Arabian Travel Market. Eventually, the entirety of its operations will transition to the proposed passenger terminal at DWC by the end of the decade, confirmed Al Ghaith.

“flydubai has always operated from both airports [DXB and the existing DWC terminal],” he said. The carrier operated flights from DWC during the pandemic when flight capacities were restricted and during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

“We reassembled all of our flights (operations) to DXB. However, for continued growth, we need to move to DWC. So, we will start operating from DWC in the ‘next couple of years’ We will have two operations: one in DWC and one in DXB,” said Al Ghaith.

Al Ghaith said the new terminal will give the airline a much bigger scope for growth. The airline placed a $11 billion order for 30 Boeing 878 Dreamliners during the Dubai Airshow last year, and Al Ghaith said the move to the proposed terminal is imperative for airline growth.

The CEO said flydubai is “working on deployment plans” for the Dreamliners; however, he said it is “too early” to finalise plans for the widebodies. “The aircraft is expected to come to us in 2026. It is still too early to finalise (deployment plans) until we have clarity on delivery timelines,” he said. However, a majority of the aircraft will be used to “go further”, implying long-haul destinations.

Delays in deliveries

The airline CEO also expressed his concerns about the continued aircraft delivery delays by American plane maker Boeing. flydubai, an all-Boeing operator, has an order backlog of more than 130 737 MAXs to be delivered by 2035, according to an airline report from November 2023. Al Ghaith said the flydubai team has made several trips to inspect the company’s production plants and its suppliers to ensure manufacturing standards are “consistently at a high level”.

“We have an ongoing discussion with them and have a strong relationship with them. We are very concerned about the delays and the negative issues about them (being) discussed in the media. But we work closely with Boeing, and they work very hard to regain the trust of the customers, and we are one of them,” he added.

“Our teams interact with Boeing from the highest level to the lowest level,” said Al Ghaith.

He also commended Boeing’s decision to buy Spirit Aerosystems – its fuselage supplier and former subsidiary. Boeing has been in talks to acquire the company to address quality control issues on the 737 MAX narrow-body jets.

“This particular action shows they care (for the stakeholders) and are not looking at the profits and margin. It is a bold and good commitment from Boeing to show they are very serious about this. We value that,” Al Ghaith said. The airline expects six more aircraft to be delivered by 2024 end. In the meantime, the airline, like Emirates, has undertaken a “multi-million dollar” cabin retrofit project to meet growing demand.

Growth plans

On Wednesday, the airline announced plans to expand its operations in Europe with the launch of flights to four new destinations: Basel (Switzerland), Riga (Latvia), Tallinn (Estonia), and Vilnius. (Lithuania). “With the addition of these routes, flydubai becomes the first national carrier to operate direct flights from Dubai,” the airline said. The airline has also doubled the size of its employees since the pandemic. “Our attrition rate last year was at 4 per cent, the lowest it has ever been in the history of flydubai,” he added.

Al Ghaith also believes that travel demand will remain sustainable at current levels for the foreseeable future.