Dubai-based Emirates Airline and local low-cost carrier (LCC) flydubai have announced an “extensive partnership agreement,” including network and schedule coordination, although they will continue to be managed independently.

The move is not unanticipated. At the Paris Air Show in June, Emirates president Tim Clark said the two airlines were not in competition, but they had always done “their own thing” and would benefit from more coordination. This was made more likely by flydubai moving from its original LCC model to offer more full-service options such as lounges and lie-flat beds in business class.

The two carriers’ route maps are complementary, with Emirates’ fleet of Boeing 777-300ERs and Airbus A380s focusing on long-haul sectors (although the A380 is deployed on trunk routes as short as a hour in duration within the Gulf) while flydubai has a dense network within the Gulf and just beyond.

“The innovative partnership goes beyond codesharing and includes integrated network collaboration with coordinated scheduling. The new model will give flydubai customers seamless connectivity to Emirates’ worldwide destinations spanning six continents. For Emirates’ customers, it opens up flydubai’s robust regional network,” Emirates said, announcing the agreement July 17.

The two airlines—which are both fully owned by the Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD) and share the same chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum—said they will use the partnership to scale up their operations and accelerate growth.

“The Emirates and flydubai teams are working together on a number of initiatives spanning commercial, network planning, airport operations, customer journey, and frequent flyer programs alignment. The partnership will be rolled out over the coming months, with the first enhanced codesharing arrangements starting in the last quarter of 2017. Further details will be communicated as they become available,” Emirates said.

Emirates operates 259 aircraft to 157 destinations (including 16 cargo-only points) and flydubai has a fleet of 58 Boeing 737-800s, serving 95 destinations. Together, the two carriers fly to 216 unique destinations, although this will increase under the partnership. 

“By 2022, the combined network of Emirates and flydubai is expected to reach 240 destinations, served by a combined fleet of 380 aircraft,” Emirates said.

The partnership will include an “expansive codeshare agreement,” schedule alignment, network optimization and feed, as well as further development and systems alignment at their Dubai International hub.

“Both airlines have grown independently and successfully over the years, and this new partnership will unlock the immense value that the complementary models of both companies can bring to consumers, each airline, and to Dubai,” Emirates Group and flydubai chairman Sheikh Al Maktoum said.

Since flydubai’s launch in 2009, the airline has opened 63 new routes that did not previously have direct air links to Dubai, or were not served by a UAE national carrier from Dubai. Flydubai will take delivery of more than 100 aircraft by the end of 2023.

Victoria Moores