After initially rejecting the notion of coordinating its route map and schedule with its sister airline FlyDubai, the leadership at Emirates has begrudgingly come to see the benefits of partnering with the much smaller budget carrier. Although both Emirates and FlyDubai are ultimately owned by the state, an official merger doesn’t seem to be in the cards at this point.
Budget carrier FlyDubai has slowly morphed into something of a regional affiliate of Emirates Airlines. Although the budget airline was founded with financial and logistical support from Emirates group, officials at the airline which built its reputation on the promise of luxury, have, in the past, taken pains to distance the Emirates product from undue association with the workhouse budget carrier that shares its Dubai International Airport (DXB) home base.
Now, however, according to a Bloomberg report, the two U.A.E. government-owned carriers have slowly consolidated operations to compliment each other’s strengths. Even Emirates CEO Tim Clark, an early skeptic of a partnership with FlyDubai, seems to have come around.
“Focusing the network according to two carriers playing their role is working well,” Clark told Bloomberg TV in a recent interview. “We haven’t finished that exercise by any stretch of the imagination.”
The two Gulf carriers entered into a massive codesharing deal in July of last year. Since then, the partnership has gradually expanded to allow the airlines to avoid offering competing service, while at the same time pulling resources and sharing costs. According to Bloomberg’s Layan Odeh, Emirates is even prepared to allow FlyDubai to operate some flights out of the airline’s exclusive T3 Terminal at DXB in order to speed codeshare connections. The carriers even plan to alternate seasonal service to some destinations based on seasonal demands – FlyDubai, with is fleet primarily comprised of Boeing 737 aircraft, is far better suited to offer service to certain destinations during slow travel periods than Emirates which is famed for its fleet of super jumbo jets.
Clark predicts that the airlines’ codeshare partnership will expand from 83 to more than 240 destinations over the next five years. Despite the budding airline romance, he cautions that there is little chance of an official merger between the two carriers. Instead, he says, each airline is becoming more valuable precisely because of its independence and ability to compliment the other.
“Now we have our commercial strategy, our network strategy and our fleet strategy are more synergized,” Clark explained. “We think there is a much greater value proposition to the owner.”