Having previously flown with flydubai for Arabian Travel Market and Dubai Airshow 2013, we’ve decided to sample the airline’s new Business Class, launched last October.
“Whoever said winning isn’t everything doesn’t know Dubai” is written on various billboards in the emirate. These words are highlighting the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. For the past 25 years, the emirate’s development has been astonishing. The tallest, the brightest, the largest – these are just a few words usually associated with Dubai. Since the oil will run out at some point, tourism plays an important role in Dubai’s evolution. Spectacular hotels and resorts – to name just a few: the world’s first Armani Hotel located in Burj Khalifa or the iconic Burj Al Arab – The Palm Jumeirah or Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping mall. And the list of superlatives could easily go on.
Aviation, also part of the vision of Dubai’s ruler, is a key-element in the development of the emirate taking into account Dubai’s enviable geographical location. Situated at the crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa, Dubai lies within four and a half hour’s flight to one third of the world’s population within eight hours flying time to two thirds of the world’s population. We can’t speak about Dubai and not mention Emirates and flydubai. Without focusing on EK – the world’s A380 and B777 biggest operator, with an impressive evolution – we’ll concentrate our attention on flydubai.
Founded in March 2008, flydubai started operations in June 2009 and is regarded as one of the world’s most dynamic airlines. Last year, flydubai added 16 new destinations to its ever growing route network. The airline currently operates 39 Boeing 737-800s and must receive 11 more from the initial order of 50. In November 2013, at Dubai Airshow, flydubai placed an $8.8 billion aircraft order (75x 737 MAX 8 + 25 options and 11x 737-800). flydubai was also the launch customer for Boeing’s Sky Interior and the first airline in the world to stream HD movies on-board from all six Hollywood studios. In one of the interviews we’ve done, Ghaith Al Ghaith, flydubai’s charismatic CEO, was telling us “that flydubai brings cultures together”, a statement which also mirrors the vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The need for Business Class
With a hybrid business model positioned between low-cost and full-service, flydubai rose quickly on the Middle Eastern aviation scene even with a strong competition. flydubai officials realized that expanding the offer – namely, the introduction of Business Class – will cater to a new segment of travellers, who are willing to pay more to get more when they are flying, and bring additional revenue. Especially in the Middle East or Russia, where money is not an issue. flydubai’s first Business Class flight was operated on October 8th 2013 to Kiev, two months after the airline took delivery of its first Boeing 737-800 with a two-class layout: 12 seats in Business and 162 in Economy. The subsequent planes it received boasted the same two-class configuration and flydubai also started retrofitting the existing 737-800s with the new Business cabin. Currently, 21 out of the airline’s 39 aircraft have Business Class and the number is rising.
Ghaith Al Ghaith, flydubai’s CEO, speaking about the new cabin: “Since day one, flydubai has been committed to delivering a unique passenger experience; we have already differentiated ourselves through our existing product offering and therefore it’s the next logical step in the evolution of our business model. The journey leading to the moment you take off is just as important as the on board experience itself. As a result, we have invested in a dedicated Business Team who will ensure that our Business Class passengers are well taken care of around the clock, enjoying a faster journey on the ground.”
On the ground: a 24/7 dedicated team
To help passengers make the most out of their Business Class travel with flydubai, the dedicated Business Team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on the telephone, at the airport or by SMS, which supports Arabic, English and Russian enquiries. The team can assist in making or amending a booking as well as selecting seats, choosing meals, handling enquiries about the latest films on board or checking in for a flight. flydubai is also offering the On Demand service, where Business Class passengers can SMS the Business Team to check in for a flight and ask for a Call Back service.
At the airport, flydubai’s Business Team sees that passengers enjoy a smooth and seamless experience from check-in and security control to boarding, an aspect we’ve experienced first-hand at Dubai International airport. As soon as we arrived at Terminal 2, a smiling Business Team member greeted and accompanied us to the dedicated Business Class check-in counter. After clearing the passport and security control we were invited to sample flydubai’s new Business Lounge (more details, below). Before moving on to the ambiance on-board, you should know that beginning July 18th, flydubai also offers its Business Class passengers an executive shuttle bus service at Terminal 2, Dubai International Airport. This service provides arriving passengers with comfortable transportation between the aircraft and the airport terminal. After arriving at T2, we quickly cleared customs thanks to the Fast-Track card we were given before landing.
In-flight: the experience
Currently, flydubai’s Business Class is offered on 52 of the airline’s 68 destinations. Priority boarding is part of the “menu”, so we’ve quickly boarded the aircraft both when heading to Dubai and returning home. Each Business Class passenger enjoys a 15 kg limit for cabin baggage and 40 kg for checked baggage (compared to 7 kg and 20 kg for an Economy Class ticket). Flying to Dubai, the load factor in Business Class was 50% (6 out of the 12 seats were taken) and even better on the return flight (10 out of 12 seats). Visually, the Business cabin is elegant, the mix between beige – which echoes the sand, the desert and Dubai’s hot climate – and dark blue being an inspired choice. The champagne offered after boarding and the main course, where you can choose from four different dishes, also define the flydubai Business Class experience.
As expected, the Italian leather seats in Business Class are comfortable (2-2 layout). They offer built-in lumbar support, generous recline (7 inches) and extendable leg-rests. The seat pitch is 42 inches, while the seat width is 21 inches. Each seat boasts a dedicated universal outlet so you can plug your laptop and work. Mood lighting and the inflight entertainment system are other aspects we’d like to highlight in our review. More than another marketing trick, mood lighting helps you deal with jet lag and ensures a nice ambiance in the cabin, with different glows depending on the flight stages: boarding, cruise, landing, disembarking. As we’ve said before, flydubai was the launch customer for Boeing’s Sky Interior.
The award-winning inflight entertainment system offers over 1,000 hours of movies, music, games, magazines, newspapers and useful info on the destinations from flydubai’s ever growing network. While Economy Class passengers must pay 30 AED for the Premium package, Business Class ticket holders enjoy it complimentary, the content being shown on 12.1-inch HD touchscreens. Regardless of your choice (movies, music), flydubai’s IFE offers quality content to make the flight more enjoyable. The user interface is nice, with modern graphics, and the system reacts well to inputs, without lag. The feedback was even better than the one we’ve experienced with some legacy carriers.
The new Business Lounge – Terminal 2, DXB
We can’t end this review without mentioning the new Business Lounge located in Terminal 2, Dubai International airport, where we’ve spent a few minutes before boarding. The contemporary design of the lounge and fresh colors are the first things you notice, making for a nice, welcoming ambiance. In the lounge, which occupies two levels, passengers can sit back and enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner with a wide selection of food and beverages available 24 hours a day. Widescreen televisions keep passengers up to date with the latest news and complimentary wireless broadband ensures it is business as usual throughout their journey. A selection of daily newspapers and magazines available in the lounge provides plenty of reading material. Click here for more photos.