United Arab Emirates-based flydubai is trimming its large 737 MAX order by 65 planes. The airline had ordered 251 MAXs from Boeing. But flydubai now says its fleet plans are changing in a post-travel downturn world.
Boeing, flydubai confirmed the MAX cancelation
Boeing has confirmed the cancelations. In a statement provided to Reuters, the big United States aircraft builder said;
“flydubai has reached an agreement with Boeing, and the airline has adjusted its aircraft orders which had been placed in 2013 and 2017.”
flydubai is one of Boeing’s biggest MAX customers. This week’s cancelation will see the total flydubai MAX order cut to 186 planes, with 170 outstanding. flydubai attributed the cancelation to changing “fleet plans in line with the airline’s strategy of rebuilding the travel sector following the COVID-19 pandemic and the changing dynamics of the airline’s route structure.”
The cancelation is a blow for Boeing amid a ballooning order book for the aircraft type. After a 20 month worldwide grounding, authorities started clearing the 737 MAX to fly again late last year. However, since then, airlines have shown confidence in the plane, with many placing new orders at Boeing.
Most recently, United Airlines placed a large order for 200 Boeing 737 MAX planes. As of 30 June, Boeing has received orders for 505 MAXs this year. The flydubai cancelation puts a dent in the stream of new MAX orders Boeing is taking.
flydubai bouncing back from the travel downturn
Speaking at the World Sustainable Business Forum on Monday, flydubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith did not directly refer to the trimmed MAX order. However, he reflected on the current state of play at the low-cost airline. He said the UAE reacted quickly to COVID-19, allowing flydubai to pivot from passenger to cargo and repatriation services early in the travel downturn.
Ghaith Al Ghaith also praised the UAE for re-opening to travelers early on, allowing UAE-based carriers to start flying paying passengers again. and charting a path to recovery.
“We tried to adjust our schedule to ensure that we put as many flights as possible on routes where there is actual demand,” said Al Ghaith at Monday’s Forum. “As recently as before the summer, we were already at 65% of pre-COVID numbers in terms of operation, which is incredible.”
Trimmed MAX order reflects changed growth strategy at flydubai
flydubai now has 53 aircraft in its fleet. All but two of those planes are in the air. Thirty-six of the planes are Boeing 737-800s. The remaining 16 are MAXs, including three 737 MAX-9s and 13 MAX-8s. The MAXs are arriving at flydubai at a steady pace, including two in the last month.
flydubai resumed flying the 737 MAX in April. At the time, Ghaith Al Ghaith said the 737 MAX was an integral part of flydubai’s fleet. Earlier, when ordering the planes, Al Ghaith praised the 737 MAX family’s flexibility and commonality. He said the unique size and range of the MAX 8, MAX 9 and MAX 10 would perfectly suit flydubai’s growing network.
Later, in the wake of the MAX’s worldwide grounding, flydubai reached an undisclosed financial settlement with Boeing as compensation for the grounding.
Meanwhile, flydubai remains confident about the future and is busy expanding its network in Europe. However, the COVID-19 fuelled travel downturn has clearly trimmed flydubai’s short to medium-term growth aspirations. This is reflected in this week’s trimmed MAX order.