Flight EK2216/FZ735 Dubai to Almaty (Kazakhstan)
FlyDubai operates a fleet of Boeing 737-800s (it also has 20 Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 9 aircraft, but these remain grounded, restricting the airline's capacity).
Economy, seat 15C (aisle).
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
FlyDubai shares Emirates' Skyward Miles loyalty program, which lets you earn and burn points on the low-cost carrier.
4 hours 15 minutes
Other than a statement that FlyDubai prefers to use local suppliers, it's hard to see any green initiatives, and plastic water bottles abound, though the crew happily refill my steel water bottle. The airline is signed up to an aviation carbon-offsetting and reduction scheme established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, currently in its pilot stage: it is trialling zero-emission ground support and new split winglets on its 737s making the aircraft more fuel-efficient and therefore, more environmentally-friendly (and easier on the hip pocket)
Like Emirates, the low-cost carrier FlyDubai is owned by the Dubai government and this flight code-shares with Emirates, so my luggage is checked through from my origin in Melbourne to the final destination in Kazakhstan. I have to collect my boarding pass at the airport, which is done in the blink of an eye in this no-nonsense, no-frills Terminal 2, which operates solely for FlyDubai flights, many of which ferry Dubai's immigrant workforce to and from their countries of origin.
FlyDubai business class passengers can check into FlyDubai's 24-hour business class lounge, otherwise, the nearest Emirates lounge is back in Terminal 3. A pay-to-enter Maharba Lounge on the airside is open to members of LoungeKey, Dragon Pass, Priority Pass and Mastercard and Diners Club cards with walk-in rates from AED194 ($A90). However it should be noted that Emirates announced the closure of all its lounges on March 21, 2020.
I am given 15C, an aisle seat in an exit row, but the large man beside me barely fits in his seat, so when I spy two seats free opposite, I leap across to 16D with the blessing of the cabin crew. He gets to spread out, I get a spare seat beside me, smiles all round. With the extra legroom, row 16 seats usually require an extra fee: I don't know how I got lucky.
The cabin luggage limit is 7kg plus a small handbag or laptop. The airline charges passengers to check in 20kg of luggage, but owing to my Emirates connection, my 13kg checked-in bag is included.
Air bridges are but a beautiful dream here. Instead, we all pile onto buses where we sweat gently in the heat of an Emirati night, waiting for the previous bus's occupants to climb up to the plane. The hardworking aircraft isn't pristine, but the seat goes back. The airline's annual report indicates the grounding of its newer 737 MAX aircraft has impacted significantly on its fleet quality and capacity. We land with a crunch that could shatter molars.
The flight gets in to Almaty at 3am, so I'm not in the mood for movies from a small screen. Even if I wanted to, the alleged touchscreen facility seems to work only with a hammer-like motion. I can't get past choosing the language (English or Arabic), so it's eye mask on and headphones in for a few hours' kip. WiFi is available, for a fee.
The multilingual staff are cool and polite, but when one crunches my foot with her regulation heel, she's beyond apologetic and offers me free tea or coffee.
Bizarrely, the airline serves a hot meal on this four-hour flight, but charges for all drinks, including tea and coffee. The chicken and rice dish is hot and tasty, with a slice of cake on the side. Nothing memorable, but far superior to what's served up in the terminal.
ONE MORE THING
The airline flies to 48 countries including upcoming tourism destinations in Central Asia and Eastern Europe and as far afield as Scandinavia and Africa, handy for adventurers seeking the less-worn (and more economically friendly) path. A warning: FlyDubai's on-time performance stats are woeful and their communication skills lacking.
Like most low-cost carriers, you get what you pay for, though the inclusion of a hot meal is a pleasant surprise. Keep your expectations low to avoid disappointment.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
Belinda Jackson was a guest of Golden Eagle Luxury Trains.