Rapidly growing low-cost carrier flydubai is planning to launch a 12-seat business class cabin across its fleet of B737-800s.
Business class tickets will be available for purchase on selected flights from August and and the inaugural flight is scheduled to take off in October.
In a flyer circulated today, it states the cabin’s seats will offer 42-inch pitch, 21-inch width and seven-inch recline along with head and leg-rests, 12.1-inch HD touchscreens and dedicated power supply. Seats will be designed in “soft Italian leather”.
It is an interesting move by flydubai, which must have identified a segment of its passengers who are happy to pay beyond base prices for more on-board comforts and frills.
Moreover, having the airline’s priority check-in and lounge at the recently upgraded Terminal 2 at Dubai International Airport also indicates a firm commitment to the current airport amid ongoing speculation about relocating to Dubai World Central.
Saj Ahmad, analyst at Strategic Aero Research, said the airline is no stranger to innovations and the new move is in line with its “continued maturity and evolution”.
He said cabin seating on its B737-800s will decrease from 189 seats to 174 seats, but the additional income from those higher yield seats will see a greater push on revenue.
“On a seat for seat basis, even with this new configuration, flydubai will still have more seats on its 737-800s than will its rivals like nas air, Air Arabia and Jazeera Airways on their rival A320,” he said.
“Translated, that is still going to bring in far more revenue per seat and lower costs per seat for flydubai, even before the airplane has taken off – now that’s an advantage its competitors simply won’t be able to replicate unless they swap to the 737 family.”
He said the move will certainly make its GCC rivals sit up and take note. “If anything, this move underscores why moving to the bigger 737-900ER or 737 MAX 9 would make perfect sense for the carrier.”
It may be a way of differentiating itself from Air Arabia, which remains a formidable competitor in the low-cost sphere, now in its 10th year and serving 85 routes.
Most low-cost airlines operate single class, single type aircraft (eg B737 for flydubai, A320 for Air Arabia), making money through high density layouts and quick aircraft turnarounds.
While premium cabins are traditionally the preserve of full-scheduled airlines, some low-cost airlines offer a premium cabin however, such as Norwegian and Air Asia X on their long distance routes.
But aviation history is littered with commercial warnings. Operators such as Silverjet, MAXJet and Eos all tried and failed to blend premium and low cost.