April 24, 2017 / 5:00 PM / 5 months ago

flydubai to increase flights to Russia after UAE visa changes

DUBAI, April 24 (Reuters) - State-owned budget airline flydubai will increase capacity to Russia by up to 50 percent from September partly in response to a new visa system for Russian citizens travelling to the United Arab Emirates.

flydubai had carved out a niche connecting Dubai to destinations in Russia and former Soviet states that previously had limited or no direct air links with the city state.

But flydubai and other airlines cut flights to Russia in the past few years as the country’s economy was hit by low oil prices and the impact of Ukraine sanctions.

“We’re trying to get back the same volume we used to be before,” flydubai chief executive Ghaith al-Ghaith told Reuters in an interview in Dubai on Monday.

Flydubai currently operates 29 weekly flights to seven Russian destinations, an airline spokeswoman later said. The increase will be compared to 2016, the spokeswoman said without providing further details.

Al-Ghaith said demand on Russian routes was increasing following recent visa changes by the United Arab Emirates for Russian citizens.

Russian visitors to Dubai rose 106 percent in the first three months of 2017 after the UAE said in January it would grant Russians visas on arrival.

“I think you will see next year this will be a big market for Dubai,” al-Ghaith said.

Flydubai’s profit fell 68 percent in 2016. In March last year, one of its aircraft crashed in southern Russia killing all 62 on board.

$1 = 3.6726 UAE dirham Reporting by Alexander Cornwell. Editing by Jane Merriman

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