Budget carrier flydubai is expanding its routes in Russia, despite the sharp fall in visitor numbers from the country.
The Dubai-based airline said yesterday that it would launch flights to Novosibirsk, the most populous Russian city after Moscow and St Petersburg, and Nizhny Novgorod – the fifth largest city in Russia – starting from October. The new destinations will bring the number of cities that flydubai services to 10.
Russia’s economy, which grew by just 0.6 per cent in 2014, is expected to enter a recession this year, owing to plummeting oil prices, a weak rouble and western sanctions.
That has led to a dramatic decline in the number of Russian tourists to the UAE.
Russian passenger numbers through Dubai International Airport fell by more than 35 per cent in the year to February, according to airport data released last month.
Analysts say that despite the unfavourable economic backdrop, flydubai can “pick up some slack” from airlines that have cut their operations to Dubai, especially from smaller Russian cities.
“The market is very much in flux and Emirates has dropped capacity while Transaero, which used to be one of the largest carriers in the Russia-UAE market, has almost cut its operation,” said Will Horton, a senior analyst at the Capa, Centre for Aviation.
“Against a background of reduced international capacity to Russia, flydubai can provide a more efficient option – and of course connections beyond Dubai,” Mr Horton said.
Flydubai, which started its operations in 2009, focuses on destinations within a five-hour flying radius from Dubai.
Jeyhun Efendi, a Flydubai senior vice president, yesterday said: “We continue to pursue our strategy of connecting Dubai to presently underserved markets and the addition of Novosibirsk and Nizhny Novgorod is a good example of this. Russia, being one of our largest networks by number of routes, continues to provide new opportunities.”
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