We have dialogue all the time with Indian airlines and we have bilateral agreements. If we find a good opportunity, we will be interested but first we will have to go and seek approval from the shareholders. The focus from the shareholders is to grow the airline in Dubai, and right now we have no mandate to go outside, Al Ghaith said.
Flydubai's positive stance towards investing in the domestic market follows a spate of similar proposals floated over the past year mostly by the Gulf-based airlines with deep pockets. While Qatar Airways has said it is keen to pick up a stake in IndiGo the only profitable domestic airline and also the market leader, Abu Dhabi's Etihad has also picked up a 24% stake in Jet Airways for around Rs 2,000 crore. Dubai's other major airline Emirates is also said to be keen on investing in the domestic market.
Flydubai, which incidentally shares its chairman Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum with Emirates, added 10 new flights to Delhi, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram this month. The airline, which is seeking more seats under the India-UAE air services agreement, now aims to expand to smaller cities. The LCC, currently connects six airports including smaller towns like Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Kochi and Lucknow and is now reconfiguring all its India-bound aircraft into a two class (business & economy) configuration, from just economy. Flydubai currently uses 3,000 seats a week to India out of the 5,000 allotment.
We will take a chance with the smaller airports, even if other airlines don't think its profitable. There is more value in bringing people from smaller cities to Dubai who have to currently travel to the metros to get a flight. We will ramp up in new cities and expand in the existing ones as well, Al Ghaith said.
He added, Personally, I think it is time that the Gulf is included in the open skies agreement. We want a lot more (seats), but it is up to the government. The biggest restriction is traffic rights for us.
Flydubai, which reported a 47% jump in profits to $61 million in 2013, currently has 37 Boeing 737 aircraft. With new deliveries, its fleet will go up to 43 by end-2014 and 50 by next year. It has also ordered 111 more B737s, which will be delivered from next year.