Flydubai is approaching break-even ahead of schedule and expects to make its first profit next year as it continues to launch routes in underserved parts of fast-growing countries, its chief executive said yesterday.
"We have been [expanding] in such a successful manner that we will be able to make money in 2012 with the speed that we are growing," Ghaith Al Ghaith said of the two-year-old budget airline.
"You can start an airline with one aircraft, and I can make money for you in one month with one aircraft," he said.
"But the challenge in our business is that in order for you to create your potential, you have to have the arm, the leg, the size to fit what you are supposed to be, and we are growing as fast as possible."
Flydubai serves 45 destinations, including the Russian cities of Ufa and Kazan, which it added last month, bringing to four the number of destinations it serves in Russia.
The carrier operates direct flights to off-the-beaten-path cities in eastern Europe, central Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Mr Al Ghaith said flydubai had identified 12 additional destinations it could serve in Russia alone. Flying to more cities, however, depended on negotiations between the UAE and Russia to raise flydubai's, he said.
"We have identified at least 12 destinations we can really serve in Russia that will have the same DNA as these routes," he said.
"I'm sure that the people who manage our relationship in the United Arab Emirates or in Russia realise, inshallah, how important what we are doing [is] and will always be very supportive and will allow us to fly to more cities," he said.
The new routes have already been strengthening business ties between the UAE and Russia, according to Igor Egorov, the chairman of the Russian Business Council in Dubai and Northern Emirates.
Russian tourists escaping their country's harsh winters and businessmen exploring opportunities in both countries are expected to account for much of flydubai's traffic on the new routes.
"Flydubai's new and existing air links will play a critical role in not only expanding investment opportunities in both countries but in opening up fields for collaboration, including [in] oil and gas, manufacturing, general trading and media, to name a few," Mr Egorov said.
Russia has in recent years attracted a flood of foreign investment. Its economy is expected to grow by 4.3 per cent this year and 4.1 per cent next year, according to the IMF, rates well above neighbouring European countries mired in a sovereign-debt crisis.
Non-oil trade between the UAE and Russia was worth Dh4.2 billion (US$1.14bn) last year, according to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
There are 412 Russian-run and Russian-controlled companies in the UAE in addition to about 55,000 Russian speakers. Mr Al Ghaith said that since twice-weekly flights were launched in October last year to Samara, Russia's sixth-largest city, overall traffic on that route had grown 627 per cent.
And a year after the company launched flights to Yekaterinburg, a major central Russian city, passenger traffic has risen 175 per cent.
Overall, passenger traffic between Russia and Dubai International Airport has grown by 33.9 per cent in the year to September, according to recently released figures.