flydubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith believes that the 60 weekly flights between Tel Aviv and Dubai this winter will not be enough to meet demand. He believes there will be demand for 100 flights a week.
Al Ghaith was in Israel last week for the launch of flydubai's Tel Aviv - Dubai route with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in attendance at Ben Gurion airport. Low-cost UAE carrier flydubai initially planned two daily flights but quickly increased it to three daily flights because of his demand.
In addition, Israir Airlines and Tourism Ltd. is operating two daily flights to Dubai from today, Arkia Airlines Ltd. begins two daily flights from Thursday and El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL) launches two daily flights from December 13.
Al Ghaith said, "Dubai is a destination that justifies this frequency of flights not just for one or two weeks but more than that. A special situation has been created by the coronavirus. Our country is safe and green and because there are not many destinations that you can fly to without going into isolation, there is an opportunity that we are seizing with both hands. We have identified the potential in the field, both through travel agents and wholesale tourism and mutual demand."
flydubai, which was founded in 2009, has a fleet of 51 Boeing 737s, 3,900 employees and flies to dozens of destinations in 50 countries. The airline is government owned and is represented in Israel by Open Sky.
From flydubai's point of view the potential is even bigger when taking into account its sister company in Dubai Emirates, which flies to virtually every point on the globe. Al Ghaith said, "When this begins we will connect Israelis to many destinations in the world. If there will be a vaccination by March that could be the change that the sector is waiting for. I believe that demand on the route will stabilize and we will see the potential for business passengers materialize.
We expect not only leisure tourists but also incentive tourism from business organizations, many conferences from art to banking and we expect to see all sections of the population, mainly between September and May because of the weather. 60 flights a week can easily grow to 100. We have to see as our model the routes connecting London and Paris or Dubai and Kuwait. On regular days there are 10-12 flights on the route. A high frequency is required so that people can choose the right hour for them and for their connection flight. The Tel Aviv - Dubai flight is a short one and it needs to be an integral part of a well-developed aviation grid."
Regarding the price of vacations, Al Ghaith stresses, "Dubai offers tourism products from 2-3 star levels up to seven stars in hotels, in restaurants and generally in activities. Covid-19 has hit tourism and prices have gone down accordingly. For Israelis it is an excellent destination and a part of this is Israel's Arab population, which I am connected to for natural reasons. After the issue of visas is solved, we expect a massive number of tourists from the UAE who will want to visit Al Aqsa and historical sites."
"80% of the residents of the UAE are foreigners and that will also be part of the tourism because until now they have not been able to fly to Tel Aviv from Dubai. The ongoing separation has only strengthened the curiosity and the demand. Before flying here, friends called me and asked me to arrange for them to come to Israel on the first flight. They are no longer really my friends for sure."
Al Ghaith has been in the aviation business for 34 years and has headed flydubai since it was founded. Before that he held senior positions with Emirates and he is ranked as one of the most influential executives in the Arab world by the UAE financial media.
flydubai exceptional in being low-cost while also operating business class. Why do you need something that reduces the number of seats in tourist class?
"We looked at the products around us in the UAE. Emirati passengers have a different profile. They are residents of 200 countries with demaqnd for different destinations and different levels of flight. Our business class is adapted to our partners headed by Emirates, for the benefit of passengers continuing on connection flights. The companies are managed separately but both are owned by the government and that makes it easier to create a connection to an infinite network of destinations from Terminal 3 at Dubai airport, which is Emirates hub."
Do you see signs of recovery from the Covid-19 crisis?
"We have begun a recovery and in the past three months we have been operating 50% of our schedule before the crisis. The credit must go to our government that should be awarded an Oscar for coping with the virus and that begins with a very large number of tests for the size of the population (about 10 million). We are standing on 120,000 tests per day and that gives us the peace of mind to keep the business moving."
flydubai brought over 200 passengers on its maiden flight to Tel Aviv and the potential extends beyond passengers to cargo. "We carry 2-3 tons of cargo on flights. That is not a lot but I am convinced that in the near future we will be hearing about cargo flights. In the Dubai market they are already selling fruits and vegetables from Israel and the trade will yet grow significantly."
I assume that if they had told you a couple of months ago that you would be operating flights to Tel Aviv, you wouldn't have believed it.
"I cannot describe to you how much the agreement makes us happy. The change has happened quickly because we trust our leaders and that sums it up. On top of that we deal in commerce and we are used to hosting visitors from all sorts of countries. Some of them already love the Emirates more than their own countries and that's because our government takes care of them."
Turkish Airlines and Aeroflot which specialize in connection flights for Israelis should start worrying?
"Absolutely and not just them. We are looking at the choices that will open up for Israeli passengers for flights to Australia in three hours less and at the better prices that we can offer. We are a company that suits the curiosity of people to visit new places, mainly those that they had not heard of before."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 1, 2020
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020