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  • Steve Jaffe

FlyDubai to be first airline to serve Dubai-Tel Aviv route

flyDubai has announced that it will start service between its home base and Tel Aviv on November 26.

flyDubai operates a fleet of 737-800s and 737 MAXs

With this remarkably fast startup, the airline will gain first mover advantage over Israeli rivals Israir and Arkia, who have moved up the introduction of their service on the route. Israir has announed it will start flights on December 2, and Arkia will begin on December 20.

The most notable feature of the flyDubai move is what it is not. It was expected that Emirates would be the UAE airline to inaugurate the route, as had earlier been announced. Given that there are only 28 shared weekly frequencies between the two countries, per the recently negotiated air service agreement, it is likely that flyDubai will be the sole UAE operator on the route for now. With 14 weekly frequencies, along with Etihad’s seven weekly flights from Abu Dhabi, that would leave only seven to be shared between Israir and Arkia for both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. To date, El Al has not announced plans to serve either market. But the airline is still grappling with the re-introduction of limited passenger operations while managing its ongoing financial challenges.

Introducing the new service, flyDubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith said:

“Following the recent bilateral agreement, the start of scheduled flights will contribute to economic development and create further opportunities for investment in pursuit of our shared interests and values. With the start of services there will be the option for increased accessibility to the UAE as well as onwards to the Indian Ocean, Far East and Africa reducing total journey times by several hours.”

flyDubai's hub at Dubai International
flyDubai's hub at Dubai International

The airline will operate double-daily 737-800 service on the route. The 1,326 mile flights are scheduled for 3hr55min westbound and 3hr10min eastbound. Departure and arrival times are as follows:

FZ1163 Dubai to Tel Aviv departing 9:40AM arriving 11:35AM FZ1164 Tel Aviv to Dubai departing 12:35PM arriving 5:45PM

FZ1627 Dubai to Tel Aviv departing 10:00PM arriving 11:55PM FZ1628 Tel Aviv to Dubai departing 12:55AM arriving 6:05AM

While it was expected that Emirates would be the UAE carrier to start the route, the truth is that using flyDubai makes better sense. The two airlines coordinate schedules and share the same loyalty program. flyDubai can offer all onward connections on Emirates, and by offering two daily flights with smaller aircraft, can offer greater frequency and connecting opportunities be coordinating with two of Emirates daily flight banks at its Dubai International hub.

flyDubai and Emirates coordinate schedules and share the same frequent flyer program
flyDubai and Emirates coordinate schedules and share the same frequent flyer program

Further, the Israeli market is still quite challenged due to the pandemic. Non-Israeli citizens are still not allowed to enter the country, and citizens are required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival from other countries. On the bright side, the UAE is classified as a “green” country, not quarantine on return to Israel. Further, both Israeli and Emirate citizens are now able to enter each country without a visa. So there are grounds for optimism.

It is likely that flyDubai is being used to gain a foothold and build the market until the post-Covid recovery begins. At that time, we could expect to see Emirates takeover the route. In normal times, the market could surely accommodate two 777-300s daily. Turkish Airlines, prior to the pandemic, was operating as many as 9 daily frequencies to Tel Aviv, feeding its passengers through its intercontinental hub in Istanbul. The business and leisure demand is there. All that’s needed is an end to the pandemic.

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