Emirates And flydubai: Complementing Without Competing


Emirates and flydubai are now “almost a merger”, according to Emirates’ Chief Commercial Officer. That comment was made last year – and since then, the pair have revealed they wish to become closer still. Key to this is flydubai’s aircraft, which nicely complement Emirates’ widebodies. Together, the pair have 181 destinations from Dubai this July, with only 31 overlapping.

Emirates is keen to use flydubai’s narrowbodies, which will become increasingly important in the years to come. Photo: Getty Images.

Emirates and hybrid airline flydubai are increasingly working together. Since resuming their strategic codeshare partnership in September 2020, almost 500,000 passengers have flown on the combined network, according to Emirates. The chairman and CEO of the Emirates Group, and also chairman of flydubai, Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, said:

“The Emirates and flydubai partnership continues to grow steadily to offer travelers even better connectivity to Dubai, and through Dubai to an extensive global network. We are seeing strong customer take-up and are excited to take the partnership to the next level by expanding services to new destinations.”

Emirates and flydubai are trying to speed up connections from Dubai’s Terminal 3 to Terminal 2, so further increasing the number of connections. Photo: Getty Images

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Growing partnership

The pair started their partnership in autumn 2017. Since then, they have developed extensive codeshares, use the same frequent flyer program, aligned schedules, optimized their networks, and focused on reducing connection times.

flydubai now has 22 destinations from Emirates’ Terminal 3 in Dubai. The pair are attempting to further improve connections between Terminal 3 and Terminal 2, which is where most flydubai flights operate.

They have also right-sized routes. For example, flydubai replaced Emirates to Zagreb, initially winter-seasonally but then fully, along with replacing the larger airline to the likes of Mashhad, Multan, and Yangon. This freed up Emirates’ widebodies so they could be better used elsewhere.

Conversely, flydubai ended Bangkok, Dhaka, and more, with Emirates itself boosting its presence in these core markets. This freed up flydubai’s aircraft for new routes.

If the networks of the two airlines are combined, they have 181 destinations in July. Photo: Getty Images

Now “almost a merger”

In mid-2020, Emirates’ Chief Commercial Officer, Adnan Kazim, said that growing cooperation between the pair of airlines might be “almost a merger”. Key in this, Kazim said, are each carrier’s aircraft and what they’re able to do with them.

flydubai uses B737-800s and MAX aircraft, the latter with lie-flat seats. It has 237 MAX aircraft on order. In contrast, Emirates obviously only uses widebodies, the smallest of which are currently 302-seat B777-200LRs. The bigger brother has made it clear how it needs smaller aircraft, a role that flydubai will increasingly fulfill. As Kazim commented:

“Going forward, we cannot sustain long-term operating on that kind of fleet… we need to inject the smaller type…  the aircraft available in [flydubai’s] fleet today are part of our plans and therefore we should make the most of the aircraft of the two carriers.”

Emirates and flydubai are working increasingly closely together, which will continue. Photo: Getty Images.

181 destinations

If both carriers’ networks are combined, they together have 181 destinations this coming July, analyzing OAG schedules indicates. This highlights the strength of their combined network. In contrast, Qatar Airways – which keenly uses narrowbodies to launch niche and thinner routes – has 139 destinations from Doha, while it’s 247 for Turkish Airlines from Istanbul Airport.

Of these 181 destinations, Emirates serves 115 while flydubai has 97. This means that the pair overlap to just 31, indicating how much they could benefit from a closer relationship.

Have you connected between the two airlines? If so, what was it like? Let us know in the comments!