Flydubai to buy plane after a year

Weighing options between two newly-launched aircraft: CEO

Dubai's low-cost carrier flydubai is eyeing Boeing's 737Max and Airbus' A320neo aircraft for purchase orders it plans to place in a year's time, flydubai chief Ghaith Al Ghaith said.

The government-owned carrier, which began operations in 2009 and has a fleet of 20 Boeing 737s with 30 more on order, is weighing its options between the two newly launched single-aisle aircraft, Ghaith told AFP in an interview on the sideline of the Dubai Airshow.

"We are planning to make an order but we are not ready to make a decision yet, especially because the new Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo just came into the market," he said.

"We are currently in discussions. We are evaluating the aircraft and we will be taking a decision in the very near future, in a year or so," he said, adding it was "difficult" to estimate the number of planes to be ordered.

Airbus says the A320neo which should enter service in 2015 will deliver a 15-per cent cut in fuel consumption thanks to latest generation engines and large sharklet wingtip devices.

The Boeing 737 MAX, developed from the Next-Generation 737, promises a 16 per cent improvement in fuel use per seat compared to current competitors.

No-frills carrier flydubai is a sister company of Emirates, the Middle East's largest airline.

Emirates kicked off the Dubai Airshow on Sunday with a record-breaking order valued at $18 billion for 50 Boeing 777 planes. But Ghaith ruled out following suit during the show which concludes Thursday.

But despite looking at both the B737 MAX and A320neo, Ghaith appeared inclined to keep his fleet of the same make, a measure to cut the cost of maintenance.

"For the type of airline we are, we should have one type of aircraft," he said.

Meanwhile, Ghaith sounded confident that the start-up carrier will break even and make a profit next year.

"We said we'll make money in 2012. We are still on course to make money," he said, acknowledging however that surging fuel prices were posing a "big challenge" for the low cost airline, just like others.

"Fuel is a common cost for all airlines ... Like others, we do increase prices," he said.

Although owned by the Dubai government, flydubai has always denied receiving subsidies.

It placed a four-billion-dollar order for 50 Boeing 737 planes at the Farnborough Air Show in England in 2008, the last of which will be delivered in 2016. It says it has secured so far $1.6 billion through five financing deals.

The carrier which started in June 2009 with only two destinations -- Beirut and Amman -- now flies to 27 stations in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Eastern and Central Europe.

"The edge of Europe is our limit," Ghaith said, pointing out that the budget carrier is not interested in destinations which would involve an overnight stay for the aircraft.

This month flydubai opened its latest two routes, to Tbilisi and Belgrade. It also flies to three destinations in the Ukraine and four in Russia.

Budget travel was introduced to the Middle East aviation sector by Air Arabia which was launched from the neighbouring emirate of Sharjah in 2003. Kuwait's Jazeera Airways followed in 2005.


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