BACKGROUND In August Business Traveller Middle East was given access to the first Flydubai aircraft to be configured with its custom-made 12-seat business class cabin, ahead of its first premium flight between Dubai and Kiev on October 8. Other business class routes the low-cost carrier is starting this month include Malé, Istanbul and Bucharest.
The carrier has an all-B737-800 fleet – three more planes with business class are due to arrive by the end of the year, and all new B737-800s arriving from September will be equipped with two cabins, while existing planes will be retrofitted. A major order will be placed for the airline’s next phase of expansion towards the end of the year. I flew from Dubai to Doha and back (flights FZ105 and FZ003) to get a feel for the product, although we’ll have to wait for the official launch to assess the service, as this wasn’t as standard on my trip.
CHECK-IN Flydubai’s Terminal 2 hub at Dubai International airport is in the throes of redevelopment, with the check-in area occupying a new extension and work continuing in phases towards the established departures and duty-free area. It remains conveniently compact, being only a short walk from the car park or taxi rank to the check-in area.
There are 52 check-in desks, half allocated to Flydubai. Business class passengers will have access to centrally located priority counters, and premium passengers are allowed 15kg hand baggage and 40kg checked baggage (up to three pieces). For those travelling light, five self check-in units are available and another 18 coming shortly; online check-in is only available on selected flights.
THE LOUNGE Beyond security and immigration, premium passengers can catch up on work or relax in a Marhaba lounge, which provides computers, lounge seating, two TVs and refreshments. A dedicated Flydubai business class lounge will open later this year.
BOARDING Our Doha flight was boarding from Gate F1, but should your gate be above F4 then leave some time, as you’ll have a five-minute walk through the temporary hallway, where work is ongoing, to the other gates in the departures area. I was informed that outbound premium passengers will have to board the bus to the aircraft, although they’ll have a choice of whether to board an earlier or later one; passengers arriving into Dubai will be collected by a separate bus. Most travellers shouldn’t find the short transfer a problem – they’re significantly shorter than the ones you can experience on the other side of the airport.
THE SEAT The business class cabin comprises three rows configured 2-2 (A-C, D-F). I was in window seat 2F. The navy blue, cream and silver Comoda seat, specially designed by Italian firm Geven and featuring soft Italian leather, was comfortable and offered plenty of legroom (42 inches/106cm), more than enough for most of Flydubai’s short-haul flights. The seat reclined seven inches (17cm) and while the footrest didn’t seem to extend very far, the innovative headrest could be raised and folded in or out, and was firm enough for weary travellers to catch some sleep in recline mode. There were storage compartments in the seatbacks and beneath the armrests. A tray table folded out from the armrest. There was a universal power socket and a USB port, but no mobile or internet capability.
THE FLIGHT The IFE was a revelation. Some 1,000 hours of entertainment can be enjoyed via the sharp 12.1-inch touchscreen, including a wide range of TV shows and movies, with HD options. I particularly liked the up-to-date news service – as good as anything I’ve seen in the air. Monitors for passengers in the front row are embedded in the wall, while they’re in the seatbacks for the other eight seats. Business passengers are also given noise-cancelling headphones.
The premium menu has yet to be released, but passengers on flights of 90 minutes or longer will receive a three-course meal served on chinaware.
ARRIVAL Business class passengers have their bags priority tagged and those arriving into Dubai can go through fast-track immigration.
VERDICT With quality finishes and entertainment, Flydubai is entering the premium arena in style – although the lack of mobile/internet connectivity is a weakness.