Middle Eastern carrier Emirates is entering a broad partnership with low-cost operator Flydubai, which will include a codeshare and optimisation of the airlines' networks.
The agreement follows increasing moves to bring the two government-owned carriers closer together, and reduce unnecessary competition, enabling Emirates to benefit from Flydubai's single-aisle operations.
Emirates says the airlines will still be managed independently but will "leverage" one another's networks to "scale-up operations" and speed expansion.
Flydubai passengers will have "seamless connectivity" to the Emirates long-haul network, while Emirates says it will benefit from the low-cost operator's regional service.
The tie-up will include co-ordinated scheduling and integrated collaboration to ensure a beneficial combination of the networks of each carrier, with increased feed and the possibility of opening new routes.
"This new partnership will unlock the immense value that the complementary models of both companies can bring to consumers, each airline, and to Dubai," says Emirates Group chief Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum – who is also the chairman of Flydubai.
Emirates operates a long-haul fleet of 259 aircraft spanning a network of 157 destinations, while Flydubai has 58 single-aisle aircraft – all Boeing 737s – and serves 95 destinations.
The airline's networks partially overlap but, between them, the carriers operate to 216 cities. They expect to be serving 240 destinations as a combined operation by 2022, with a total fleet of 380 aircraft.
Emirates says the tie-up will be implemented "over the coming months", with initial "enhanced" codesharing from the fourth quarter of this year. It adds that the two sides are discussing various additional network and customer initiatives including frequent-flyer alignment.
While the carriers have yet to detail any route changes, their networks overlap on around 35 destinations from Dubai, with about a third of them located in the Indian subcontinent region and another third in the Middle East – markets which naturally fall within the range of Flydubai, with its single-aisle fleet.
Twelve routes to India, Pakistan and neighbouring subcontinent states are served by both airlines, according to FlightGlobal's routes database for July 2017.
They face the greatest number of scheduled airline competitors on the Delhi, Mumbai and Kochi routes, with up to five Indian operators flying the same sectors. There is also competition, to a lesser degree, on services from Chennai, Hyderabad, Karachi, Multan and Trivandrum.
About a third of the two airlines' overlapping routes have just one other competitor – such as Addis Ababa, Amman and Colombo, served by respective flag-carriers Ethiopian Airlines, Royal Jordanian, and SriLankan Airlines – while another six have no competition. These six routes include Khartoum, Mashhad, Entebbe, Sialkot, Male and Prague.
Emirates serves most of the overlapping routes with Boeing 777s, with Airbus A380s featuring on a select few – including Mumbai, Moscow, Prague and Bangkok.
Its use of long-haul types means it offers far more capacity than Flydubai on much of their overlapping services, anything from double to 15 times more on some routes, although Flydubai is the greater provider on a handful of specific sectors, including Kabul, Multan and Khartoum.