MIAMI – Some more good news this week in commercial aviation. Flydubai (FZ), the government-owned budget airline in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is asking furloughed workers to return to the airline starting in June.

A story on says that chief executive Ghaith Al Ghaith has given employees a “schedule to start coming back…[These are] all the people who were on unpaid leave,” he said. “That was a huge satisfaction from our side that we can bring back people.”

During the pandemic Flydubai had given its staff two choices: unpaid leave or layoff. About 97 percent of affected staff chose to go on unpaid leave, said Mr. Al Ghaith.

“I understand part of it is because people have no other choice… but it was a commitment from the people that they wanted to stick with the airline and we stuck with them,” he said.

FlyDubai Boeing 737-800NG Photo: Marco Macca @aviator_ita / Airways

Assisting Furloughed Workers

Per the article, FZ said 1,092 of its 3,796 workers went on unpaid or voluntary leave. However, the airline worked with the government and regulatory authorities to support the affected employees. Flydubai worked with banks to provide relief such as loan repayment forbearance.

“We tried to work out some of their problems because … for a lot of people who work for us, the UAE is their second home,” he said.

“The feedback we got during this terrible time of how people valued what we have done was so encouraging. That made us so proud that we can do even more. This is a very big exercise to build people’s loyalty to the brand.”

Flydubai Boeing 737-Max8 A6-FMN. Photo: Brad Tisdel/Airways

Upbeat Outlook

The airline is calling people back to work because it is upbeat about the summer travel months. Prior to halting flights to India, Pakistan, and Nepal, all currently enduring a surge of COVID-19 cases, FZ had returned to about 65% of its pre-pandemic capacity.

“We are very optimistic that with the summer coming up, things … will be even better,” he said. “The biggest question will be which countries will be open. We are open here and ready for business in the UAE, and the airline is ready.”

In that light, the airline revealed that it will open new routes to the Greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos, Bodrum and Trabzon in Turkey, Naples in Italy, and Salzburg in Austria in the next two months.

Flydubai uses an all-B737 fleet with 40 Boeing 737-800s, 11 MAX 8s, and three MAX 9s. It currently has orders for 236 additional MAX types.

“We have opened new destinations… that probably we would have not flown to, but because these are opportunities presented to us [through the 737 Max’s return]. There will be more of these opportunities,” said Mr Al Ghaith. There is a “huge potential” to deepen its existing partnership with sister company Emirates.

“With Emirates, we have a huge opportunity to work together,” said Mr Al Ghaith.

The Dubai government owns both Emirates (EK) and FZ. The two airlines coordinated before the pandemic on “basic” elements such as code-sharing and schedules.

“Right now, the objective is to work as two separate airlines. But that does not mean we cannot grow together,” said Mr Al Ghaith. “There is huge potential.”

Featured image: FlyDubai Boeing 737-800NG. Photo: Marco Macca/Airways