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Dubai airline secures 320 mln dlrs deal to expand fleet

By AFP

Low-cost carrier Flydubai said on Wednesday it struck a 320-million-dollar aircraft financing deal with GE Capital Aviation Services that would bolster its fleet.

Under the agreement, GE will finance the airline's purchase or leasing of four planes from Boeing in the second half of this year, to add to the two aircraft which the carrier already has, the firm said in a statement.

"This deal will fulfill our financing needs to receive the four aircraft from Boeing by the end of 2009," Chief Executive Ghaith al-Ghaith said in the statement.

By the year's end, the company would have a fleet of six planes that would enable it to launch about 14 new destinations, Gaith said.

Flydubai is scheduled to receive the first two planes in July, one in October and another in December, he added.

The budget carrier, a sister company of Dubai's largest Middle East carrier Emirates, took off on its first route to Beirut on June 1, and followed that with flights to Amman, Damascus and Alexandria.

Airlines in the Middle East have been expanding, despite the global economic slowdown, as the region is at the crossroads of three continents -- Africa, Asia and Europe -- and is home to a huge expatriate population.

Dubai, a tourism and trade hub, had first announced the establishment of Flydubai in March 2008, with a start-up capital of 250 million dirhams (67 million dollars).

Dubai has the busiest airport in the region which handled more than 37 million passengers in 2008, a nine percent increase from 2007.

Flydubai competes with Sharjah-based Air Arabia, listed on the Dubai stock exchange, and Kuwait's Jazeera Airways, which also has a hub in Dubai.

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