There seems to be a tightening working relationship between United Arab Emirates top-flight carriers flydubai and Emirates which may lead to a merger.
This was disclosed by the Chief Commercial Officer of Emirates, Adnan Kazim,in a recent statement.
“flydubai is an important supportive element for Emirates, and the aircraft available in its fleet today are part of our plans and therefore we should make the most of the aircraft of the two carriers,” he added.
This is especially important given flydubai’s B737 MAXs when operational have lie-flat business seats.
This development is partly from coronavirus and the significantly weaker demand that has resulted.
It is also partly from Emirates itself increasingly talking about smaller aircraft. This has frequently been a discussion point, but the carrier’s CCO said recently that its fleet will change. “Going forward, we cannot sustain long-term operating on that kind of fleet. We need to inject the smaller type.”
This would be meaningful for future network growth, growing frequencies on existing routes (for growing waves), and where year-round widebodies don’t make sense within Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia and Africa.
Crucially, it is also simply the continuation of the two carriers increasingly moving closer together anyway.
This includes extensive code-sharing, using the same FFP, schedule alignment, and network optimisation.
The smaller carrier now operates 22 routes from Emirates’ Terminal 3, enabling far smoother connections with a MCT of 90 minutes.
flydubai began Dubrovnik in April 2018, with this route ordinarily operating four-weekly during the summer season. Not surprisingly, its departure time from and arrival at Dubai is primarily designed to connect to/from Asia-Pacific.
… as the pair increasingly right-size
Demonstrating right-sizing, flydubai replaced Emirates seasonally to Zagreb, which might otherwise have been summer-only or cut altogether.
Meanwhile, flydubai entirely replaced the larger carrier to Mashhad, Multan, and Yangon, which enabled the destinations to remain, with Emirates’ widebodies redeployed to more warranted places.
At the same time, flydubai ended Bangkok, Dhaka, and Male, with Emirates itself boosting these core markets.
This – and other network cuts by flydubai – enabled the airline’s 737s to be redeployed and to launch new markets, including Krakow, Naples, and Sochi.
As flydubai and Emirates increasingly work closer together, the pair can achieve the greatest advantage by maximising the flexibility afforded by narrowbodies, developing more harmonised networks, growing smaller waves, reducing if not eliminating route duplication, and offering more and more O&Ds.
This raises the question: to what degree do their networks already overlap?
Last year, flydubai had 101 destinations from Dubai International, OAG Schedules data shows. Of these, about one-third – 33 – overlapped with Emirates. This was the lowest number since 2013.
This is down from a high of 40% in 2012, when 17 of flydubai’s 53 routes matched.
In general, the pair’s overlap has been reasonably consistent on a percentage of flydubai’s total routes basis.
Kuwait top for overlapping seats; here’s the top-15
The 33 routes that overlapped with Emirates last year had over 5.8 million flydubai seats.
In other words, more than 47% of that carrier’s total seats from Dubai International were on routes that matched Emirates – a significant amount.
This is because they were mostly within the Middle East and, to a lesser degree, South Asia. flydubai’s Middle East offering is often characterised by high frequencies.
Here’s the pair’s top-15 overlapping routes last year by total combined seats.
Kuwait was number-one by total seats, with flydubai possessing a good 33% share. This is in contrast to India, where flydubai’s tiny percentage of seats is notable due to its once-daily offerings to its normally less-than-daily frequency and Emirates’ strong penetration.
Of these 15, only three – Bahrain, Muscat, and Kabul – had an above-average percentage of seats by flydubai.
Kabul was the sole destination, of these 15, where flydubai had more seats than Emirates, resulting in a 60% share.
flydubai had up to a four-daily service to Kabul against Emirates’ daily offering, albeit by 354-seat B777-300ERs – with a first-class cabin.
What new airports would flydubai add to Emirates’ network?
If a closer-than-ever partnership – or, enormously less likely, a full merger – happened, flydubai would provide Emirates with 66 additional destinations on a scheduled basis.
These 66 include Calicut (which Emirates has suspended) and the likes Almaty, Basra, Kiev, Salalah, Tbilisi, and Zanzibar.
flydubai + Emirates “almost a merger”; 33 routes overlap with brother, lowest since 2013
Of the 66 destinations that do not overlap with Emirates, Kathmandu leads by flydubai seats, as shown below. In normal times, flydubai serves the Nepal capital with up to three-daily services.
Dubai – Catania: flydubai SLF of ~85%
Catania joined flydubai’s network in June 2018, and ordinarily operates four-weekly.
With 68,600 two-way seats last year, Catania was far from being in flydubai’s top-15 routes, as above. However, it clearly has an important role to play.
OAG Traffic Analyser indicates Catania generated around 58,000 passengers last year for an estimated seat load factor of 85%.
Of these, about 34,000 were point-to-point and 24,000 connected over Dubai, with around 83% on Emirates. Melbourne, Sydney, Colombo, Bangkok, and Perth were the top destinations.
According to Emirates FY2020 report, the two airlines had a combined network of 210 destinations before the COVID-19 outbreak. The partnership, which began in October 2017, has already resulted in a combined number of about 5.3 million passengers.
By Francis Ogwo