Flydubai Airlines Had No Prior Fatal Accidents Leading Up To The Crash In Russia
A low-cost airline owned by the government of Dubai experienced its first fatal crash Saturday. A Boeing 737-800, operated by Flydubai reportedly attempted to land multiple times before crashing near the runway at Rostov-on-Don, Russia at around 3:50 a.m. local time. Poor visibility and inclement weather reportedly factored into the incident, though investigations are still ongoing. The airline confirmed that the 55 passengers and seven crew members on board were killed on the return trip from Dubai. Though many have heard of the Dubai government's other airline, Emirates — said to be the busiest in the world — few are aware of the history of Flydubai Airlines.
The airline was established in 2008 by Emirates Chairman Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum. Its first order of business was stocking the company with 50 Boeing 737s. Flydubai launched its inaugural commercial flight in 2009 in a flight that traveled to Beirut, Lebanon. Weeks later, routes had been expanded to include Amman, Jordan; Alexandria, Egypt; and Damascus, Syria. The company has hailed itself as one of the most rapidly expanding airlines in the world, reportedly transporting thousands of passengers on around 1,400 flights per week. Routes now span as far as the picturesque island of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, and the similarly futuristic city of Doha, Qatar — a flight that runs just over an hour in length.
According to The Wall Street Journal, there were very few incidents that caused safety concerns in Flydubai's handful of years in operation. The last incident to occur was in January 2015, when a plane reportedly caught fire while landing in Baghdad.
The Boeing 737-800 operated for flight FZ981 had undergone routine maintenance as recently as January 2016. Its pilot, Aristos Sokratous, hailed from Cyprus and had reportedly flown with Helios before taking a job with Flydubai. According to the company, Sokratous had logged approximately 5,900 flight hours.
CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith has released multiple statements about the incident on the Flydubai website and a hotline has been set up for both emergency and media requests. Ghaith had this to say about the tragic crash:
We are still in the process of gathering all the information we possibly can, but at this stage I will share the facts that we are able to confirm now. At 00.50GMT today flydubai flight FZ981 crashed at Rostov-on-Don and I am very sorry to say that we believe that there are no survivors. Onboard the aircraft, 55 passengers including 33 women, 18 men and 4 children and 7 crew members of whom 5 were male and 2 were female. The nationalities of the passengers included 44 Russians, 8 Ukrainians, 2 Indians and 1 Uzbekistani.
Al Ghaith added that he is in charge of accident response and expressed his condolences to all affected by the incident. In its 8-year history, Flydubai appeared to have managed to provide a safe experience for passengers. What happened to flight FZ981 stands as a major test for the airline company as it continues to investigate the tragic incident.