x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

An ambitious agenda for budget airline

No one can accuse the chairman of the country's newest budget airline of setting his sights too low.

DUBAI // No one can accuse the chairman of the country's newest budget airline of setting his sights too low. "There are potentially two billion customers we could eventually be serving," Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed said about flydubai, which begins services on June 1. "This will certainly bring more tourists to Dubai but will also attract businesspeople who want to fly at a low cost." Company officials have already announced daily flights to Beirut and Amman and said two more destinations would be added later in the year. A round-trip ticket can cost as little as Dh620 (US$169), but charges for extra services could more than double the price. "Over the coming months we will be making more announcements as we build a popular network of routes within four-and-a-half hours' flying time of Dubai," Sheikh Ahmed said. "There is a lot of potential in this region."

Outgoing flights cost Dh250 including taxes; return flights cost Dh370 from Beirut and Dh410 from Amman. By comparison, the next cheapest airline, Air Arabia, based in Sharjah, is offering return fares to Beirut for Dh1,294. Flydubai passengers can take up to 10kg on board free, which the company says is the most generous hand luggage allowance in the Middle East, but the costs can be pushed up by charges including fees for booking through a call centre, extra luggage, choice of seat, extra legroom and sports equipment. Ghaith al Ghaith, chief executive, said by distributing fares through the website and selected travel partners, flydubai could avoid global distribution systems.

"In every aspect we have looked at excess costs and how to reduce them." Beirut and Amman had been chosen as the initial destinations because of the volume of traffic from Dubai during the summer months. The initial reaction has been overwhelming; the flydubai website crashed within hours of going live this week. Sheikh Ahmed said: "Wherever we can, we will try to decrease the cost. Our aim is to provide the lowest fare possible but with the greatest flexibility. We will not rest but will continue to develop."

He denied the airline was trying to undercut rivals or its sister airline, Emirates: "We will add to the market share, not take away from it." tyaqoob@thenational.ae