Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Trip Report: flyDubai - Dubai to Colombo (March 2014)

Trip Report: flyDubai - Dubai to Colombo
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

FlyDubai is billed as the 'low-cost' alternative in Dubai.  The airline adopted the LCC model with a fee-for-service model and a single class (only recently did they adopt business class and priority boarding - for a fee).  When booking with LCC type carriers, it is important to remember what you are getting for the price you are paying; and more importantly what you are NOT getting.  For the price of the ticket, mostly all you get is a seat on the plane, seat assignment only 24 hours before the flight, and 7-10kg baggage allowance allowed on the plane; that's it!  everything else you want - checked baggage, priority seating, seat assignment when you book the flight, drinks, meals, entertainment - all comes for a fee.  If you do not mind and are able to travel lightly and take advantage of the LCC model, you can have a wonderful vacation at a relatively cheap costs.

I flew FlyDubai from Dubai to Sri Lanka.  I was only going for a couple of days so I knew I could pack lightly and wouldn't have to check-in a bag, and the flight was for 3 hours so I could bring my own food and entertainment on board.  Given all this, I went online to FlyDubai's website and choose the flight that I wanted (FlyDubai only flies once a day to many destinations, also limiting your options and flexibility).  After choosing the flights, you can choose your extras.  I choose the basic fare from FlyDubai which only guaranteed me a seat (no seat assignment) and a7-kg hand allowance (plus a personal item).   If you do want to choose extras, you can get cheaper rates when you book your flight or when the airline sends you an email about a week before your flight - booking these options at the airport or on board the airplane incurs higher costs.  Once you have booked your flight, you have multiple options of payment - you can either pay online (for a fee), pay at a FlyDubai shop (if one is nearby), or at a kiosk they have set up throughout the GCC.  

FlyDubai operates out of Dubai's DXB Terminal 2 (something to remember as most airlines, including Emirates, operate of T1 and the terminals are not connected).  T2 is undergoing A LOT of renovation to modernize the terminal as right now it does not look good.  There are two sections to Terminal 2 - departures and arrivals.  To get from Departures to Arrivals, you have to go out of the airport and walk next to the building for about 10 minutes and re-enter the airport (not very convenient).  FlyDubai is the dominant airline at T2 so it has a lot of counters.  There were lots of passengers from and flights going to Eastern Europe and Russia - all of whom had a lot of luggage - so this created some long lines.  I found a shorter line and checked-in and received my seat assignment (something which I was not allowed to do online).  

---Note--- no flydubai agent in Dubai ever measured nor looked at my bag to ensure it was under the required weight.  In fact, I saw many people on the bus who had bags well over the 7kg weight, but they were taking it on board as had luggage.

The departures' section has undergone renovations and is somewhat modern (still not as modern as T1, but modern).   There is free wifi (spotty but decent in the departures, but not available in the arrivals), some seats (although clearly not enough), AC (which not turned on or not functional in arrivals), a coffee shop, a travel store, a money charger (who charges very high rates - there is also a money changer in arrivals hall who has better rates).  After security and immigration, there is a duty free area on one side and three restaurants - subway, a patisserie/deli, and other restaurant.  

The 'gates' are seating areas next to doors all are bused to your plane - you may want to sit next to your gate since it's hard to hear the announcements (which sometime happen after the fact).  I was sitting next to my gate and they started boarding before they made the announcement.  Along with checking your boarding pass, this was the first time they actually checked people's luggage (they mostly checked those with hand rollers, all with backpacks were never checked).  There are two buses as passengers are divided into rear plane and front plane entrance (flydubai boards from both sections).  After the bus was boarded with our section, we were off to our plane.  The planes are parked somewhat far away from the terminal and seem to share space with cargo planes stationed at DXB.  We were boarding from the rear so we were called first, boarded the bus first so ideally we should've boarded first; however, when we got to the plane we sat in the bus for about 20 minutes just waiting.  By this time, the other bus carrying the forward passengers had also arrived and they had to wait as well (for about 5-7 minutes).  We were finally let out of the bus and took the stairs up to the plane.  

 seat pitch - not bad for a LCC
flydubai follows the LCC model of only one-type of plane so all of their planes are Boeing 737.  The plane was not that full, but it still took a while to board, boarding was very haphazard and we sat on the runway for a very long time.  When we finally took off, we were about 40 minutes behind schedule.  The plane itself is relatively comfortable with decent legroom.  The first 3 rows as well as the emergency exit seats have extra legroom, and these are available for a price.  On the back of each seat is a charging station (very convenient), a personal TV screen, and flydubai menu.  flydubai is an unbundled airline so everything you want, you need to purchase.  You can purchase your food and drinks online (for a lower costs), via the personal screen when you board, or when the flight attendants come down with their trolley (supplies are limited so if you like something, order it early).  There is also duty-free available on the flight as well.  Even though the flight was not full and most people had ordered, it still took a while for the flight attendants to conduct their service.  In addition to the food and drinks menu, you can purchase also purchase tv shows or movies to watch during your flight.  For free, you can track your flight path or read some global news.  There is also a kid section with games and cartoons to keep the little ones occupied during the flight.  

We took off from dubai around 8:40pm and landed in CMB around 12:30am.  We did make up some time in the air but were a bit behind schedule.  This flight runs 4 times a week and the flight has about 1.5 on the ground and then it departs back for Dubai (around 2:30am and arrives Dubai at 5:55am).  About 5 days I took the return flight.  The return flight was very similar but this time the flight was full (and trying to sleep on one chair was very uncomfortable).  I was sitting next to children and there was an empty seat in the front (with extra legroom) so I asked the attendant if I could move up to give the family more room and they were ok with that (other airlines have said no).  We landed around 5:55am again boarded buses to go to the terminal  
The buses make 2 stops, first stop is immigration for those existing in Dubai, while the second stop are transiting passengers (be careful which one you get off because there are no connections and you cannot exit back onto the active runway).  The arrivals hall at T2 is very plain, very old, and very small.  There is a money changer (with better rates than the departures changer), 2 phone companies, a large restaurant, a small coffee shop, a duty free kiosk, and a small sitting area (with no wifi).  

flydubai also operates a bus from DXB to Abu Dhabi and to RAK for those passengers who live there. The bus departs outside of Terminal 2 and stops at flydubai offices in each city (information and map available on their website).  You have to pay for these buses, which you can do online (for a transaction fee), reserve online or pay in a shop (with no transaction fee; I did this and it was very convenient), or pay onboard (no transaction fee but a higher fare).  I took the DXB to Abu Dhabi bus, which only has one departure in the morning and then one return in the evening (so double check to ensure it connects with your schedule).  I had to wait 2.5 hours upon my arrival for my bus, which was a very long and boring wait at T2.

The bus is a standard 20 passenger bus with a luggage compartment add-on.  The bus was comfortable and we had about 13 people on it, but the bus driver was asking the passengers to do his job (he seemed very confused) and was dropping passengers off anywhere they felt like it (even on the side of the highway).  We were supposed to be dropped off near the Corniche, but the driver wanted to drop us off at the main bus stand (which was very far away from the Corniche).  Only after our insisting that is not where the bus is supposed to go according to the website were we dropped off at the correct location.  

Even though FlyDubai's basic costs were cheaper (and cheaper than other LCC's in the area such as Air Arabia), had I factored in checked baggage (there and back), purchasing a meal and drinks, along with entertainment - all of which are standard on FlyDubai's competitors such as Emirates or Etihad - then sometimes FlyDubai was not that cheaper (both Etihad and Emirates also offer free bus shuttles to passengers holding same-day tickets).  Etihad was having a sale from Dubai to Sri Lanka and their fares were only marginally higher.  Had I been travelling for a longer period of time, or with family, I am not sure I would've chosen FlyDubai but for the short trip with no baggage, it was ok for the cheap price.  You don't pay a lot, and you don't get a lot but as long as its safe, somewhat comfortable, and will get me there on time -- I am good!  
Here are some pictures I took of my experience on flydubai --- enjoy and comment below if you have a similar or different experience (or your general thoughts on flydubai!)   

1 comment:

  1. Discount carrier or budget airline? |