AMMAN // Dubai state-owned flydubai hopes to launch its delayed flights to India by the end of the year as part of plans to add up to nine additional destinations to its network in 2009. The fast-growing, low-cost carrier currently flies to five destinations in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Egypt after beginning operations on June 1.
Later this month the carrier will add its sixth route, Djoubiti, which underlines its strategy to fly to smaller, secondary cities in the region which offer pockets of growth for small budget airlines, but are not big enough to attract full-service airlines such as Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways. Last month, flydubai suffered a setback to its plan to launch operations in India, one of its core markets, when it had to cancel its launch plans to four cities there, including Lucknow, Coimbatore and Chandigarh, due to "operational issues."
The airline has not commented further on the cause of the delays, but Indian media reports suggested the Dubai upstart faced resistance from local airlines worried about losing traffic as they face a glut in capacity and weakened demand due to the economic downturn. Flydubai was not abandoning its plans for India and hoped to begin flights soon, said Ghaith al Ghaith, the chief executive of the carrier. "India will be operational," he said.
Using the traditional budget airline business model, flydubai is focusing on smaller cities within five hours flying time of Dubai. Those cities often provide lower operational costs for airlines and are overlooked by larger airlines. The airline would push deeper into the Indian subcontinent, including Pakistan, before turning its attention to cities in the Gulf, Iran, Iraq and Africa, Mr al Ghaith said.
The focus on stimulating new demand to underserved destinations contradicts earlier forecasts analysts that flydubai would operate routes similar to Emirates, also owned by the Dubai Government, and "cannibalise" traffic from its sister airline in a bid to shut out Air Arabia, the Sharjah-based budget airline, from the Dubai market. However, at the same time it has focused on high demand destinations such as Beirut, Alexandria, Damascus, Aleppo and Amman. Airline executives say flydubai enjoyed strong demand in June from expatriate workers leaving Dubai for the summer to visit friends and relatives. The airline has also enjoyed strong demand and has had strong performance this month as the workers return.