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Take-off is smooth for fledgling flydubai

Flydubai's inaugural flight went according to plan as the budget, no-frills airline saw a sold-out aircraft take off on time.

DUBAI // Flydubai's inaugural flight went according to plan yesterday morning as the budget, no-frills airline saw a sold-out aircraft take off on time. Flight FV-157 left Dubai International Airport's Terminal 2 for Beirut at 10.30am, with a passenger list that included Sultan al Mansouri, the Minister of Economy. It arrived at Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport at 1.05pm. Shortly after 6.30pm, after a half-hour delay, the plane returned to Dubai.

An airline spokesman at Dubai airport said the first flight had left without a hitch as a result of flydubai's simplified procedures. "We don't issue paper tickets and many passengers just take hand luggage, which means they can get onto the plane quickly," he said. "This means our passengers only have to arrive 45 minutes to an hour before the flight takes off." Ticket prices are designed to attract short-haul travellers on a budget; for instance, the cheapest seats on the Beirut route are about Dh350 (US$95).

Passengers with bags weighing more than 32kg, however, must pay a surcharge of Dh40 to Dh150. Once on board the plane, amenities such as food and beverages are available for a price. The flydubai chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, said the launch of the airline was an important step for a region highly dependent on air transport. "This is a historic moment," he said. "Today, we have not only witnessed flydubai's first commercial flight, but we have also seen a new chapter in the history of aviation in the UAE."

Mr al Mansouri added that the airline could help tourism in the country. Hassan Hassan, 41, an electrical engineer from Lebanon, said the flight to Dubai had been comfortable and provided a good value for people who travel regularly between Beirut and Dubai. Another passenger noted that the potential hassles of luggage and lack of in-flight amenities were small obstacles for short-haul fliers. Maruaha Thatikonda, 30, a photographer from India, applauded the ease of access.

"I make short trips to other cities in the region, and so I don't need to carry a lot of luggage," he said. "With this service I can get through the airport quickly and don't have to pay for the space my luggage takes up. "There may be less services available but in these times it is the cheaper ticket that is more important." The airline will begin its second route, to Amman today. Flights to Damascus and Alexandria will be available from next week.

A spokesman said more routes had been planned. tbrooks@thenational.ae

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