The company was officially set up in March 2008 by the Government of Dubai, initially as a low cost airline, with initial orders being placed for 50 Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Operations started in June 2009 and the airline has experienced rapid growth since then, becoming an important player in the Middle East market.
In January 2014, it added a further 11 Next-Generation 737-800s but also signed for 75 737 MAX 8 aircraft. This was followed in December 2017 by the largest ever Boeing single-aisle aircraft purchase in the region-an order valued at up to $27 billion at current list prices for 175 737 MAX aircraft, plus 50 options.
The deal allows flydubai to take a mix of MAX 8, MAX 9 and MAX 10 models, so it can match capacity and range to network needs.
The first MAX 8 was delivered in July last year and with it came a completely new interior. A separate procurement process saw selection of the Thomson Vantage seat for Business Class, the RECARO CL3710 seat for Economy class and Zodiac RAVE IFE system, but JPA Design were responsible for customisation of these items as well as all soft furnishings, including curtains and carpets, serviceware, bulkheads and lighting customisation.
John Tighe, Design Director at JPA, says the contract was carried out in a relatively short time frame, which caused some challenges, but tile positive attitude and quick decision making by what is a relatively young company made it an enjoyable experience. It also helped that JPA had just opened an office in Dubai.
The airline is extremely proud of Dubai and so a local investment was greatly appreciated. In fact, during the design team's immersion trip to the customer, as well as informal interviews with crew, engineers and the management team, they were also shown 'flydubai's Dubai', hidden aspects of the city and culture that are better known to locals. These informed some of the design choices but he adds that the airline is now more about value for money than low cost, especially as it is aligned with flag carrier Emirates, and other, perhaps more costly, choices were also made on the basis of style to maintain a distance from the competition.
Another distinctive aspect of ftydubai's approach to tile project was tile choice of suppliers. He says some major cabin manufacturers view the 737 as a standard aircraft and are not really interested in customisation. In the case of flydubai, the size of tile order book gives it some power and it has curated a collection of companies who have bought into its particular view of the aircraft and how it is used and appreciated the need to sometimes go beyond the basic specification. These include Botany (inner seat shell Nomex liner in C), Boltaron (seatshell plastic in C/Y), Lantal (carpets in C, carpets and literature pocket in Y), Muirhead (headrest leather in C/Y), rohi stoffe (seat textiles and curtains in C/Y), Schneller (laminates in C/Y) and Sekisui (inner seat shell plastic and infused plastic table in C).
This is the use of a narrowbody aircraft on longer routes, the network extremities being Prague to the west, Yekaterinburg to the north, Dar es Salaam to the south and Kathmandu to the east. There is also a recognition that connecting passengers to or from long haul widebody flights would find similar levels of comfort attractive, especially in Business Class.