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GRAVITY DEFYING


flydubai CEO Ghaith al Ghaith tells Jonathan Sheikh-Miller why even a potential global double dip won’t spoil his bold expansion plans.


A


s Ghaith Al Ghaith, the CEO of flydubai, one of the world’s fastest-growing low cost carriers (LCC), laid out


his views on his airline’s rapid ascent at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, row-upon-row of trading dhows rocked rhythmically just outside on Dubai Creek – a reminder that much of the city’s development has stemmed from transportation and trade. flydubai is barely 30 months old and


it is as modern as the wooden dhows are traditional but just like these vessels, Ghaith’s airline is looking to span large areas of the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and beyond. Recently, the carrier has been targeting the Commonwealth of Independent States and the former republics of the Soviet Union, with four routes into Russia and three into the Ukraine, but Ghaith’s vision is spread far and wide. “We are growing at 360 degrees and


we are growing into different regions. But at the moment, at the start of


their winter holiday season, when their traffic is at a peak, Russia is particularly important and it does have huge potential because the cities we are serving have had very little link to this part of the world, unless you travel via the capital, so our direct flights are both essential and unique.” Ghaith suggested as many as 12


further Russian cities could be added to flydubai’s route map in time but the four presently served comprise 11 per cent of Russia’s 143 million strong population. Peter Grimsditch, editorial director of the Oxford Business Group, says Al Ghaith’s present focus makes sense. “The growing Russian middle-class is a fertile market for Dubai. Many are staying away from one of their favoured destinations – Egypt – until they see it settling down more. “This leaves Dubai and Turkey to mop up the extra traffic because of the Egyptian fallout. There is certainly a lot of seats to be filled with Russian tourists and flydubai's targeting of


non-traditional cities in the former Soviet Union has a very good chance of producing good business.” Al Ghaith believes the airline’s


coverage of the Middle East is well developed but he has pinpointed other tempting markets including the Indian sub-continent and Africa where the LCC “is not in enough places”. A recent “Middle Eastern Megacarriers” report by the Boston Consulting Group highlighted the growth of regional LCCs as a possible threat to the seemingly relentless success of the likes of Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways. But Al Ghaith does not think his carrier, or any other budget airline, is a threat to the short-haul ambitions of the full-service airlines. “I think we supplement all the airlines


that are sharing this market. In this part of the world, we look at competition positively and it is an open market, so the more the merrier. The more services and airlines there are, the better it is for the customer.”


GULF BUSINESS / 75


GEtty IMaGES


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