Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Stella Shon
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Airline: Flydubai (FZ)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800 (A6-FEG)
Flight #: FZ756
Route: Istanbul Airport (IST) to Dubai International Airport (DXB)
Date: November 14, 2023
Duration: 3 hours, 55 minutes
Cabin and Layout: Economy class, 162 seats, 3-3 configuration
Earlier this month, I flew from the U.S. to Istanbul as part of getting myself to India for a friend’s wedding. Istanbul was chosen as the initial stop on my long journey because I could find a solid deal using points from the U.S. for a business class ticket, but it still meant that I needed to get from Istanbul to India.
I figured that Istanbul wouldn’t be the worst place to be positioned, as it is the home of the huge Turkish Airlines hub that connects the globe like no other airline. So, my initial plan was to spend a few nights in Istanbul and continue to Mumbai after that.
However, as I was looking for flight options between Istanbul and Mumbai, I was shocked to find that there were just 2 nonstop flights on most days. On top of this, the flights were longer than I had initially expected, more expensive than I was expecting, and took place at pretty crummy times.
This led me to rethink this whole part of the journey, and I decided that I’d go to Dubai for a couple of days before meeting my friends in India, as it was just a 2-ish-hour journey from there to Mumbai and flights were plentiful and decently priced.
The only thing left was getting myself from Istanbul to Dubai. I needed a flight that departed after around 7 p.m. local time because I landed in Istanbul at around 5 p.m. Flydubai had an option that departed at 1:45 a.m. the following day, which worked out perfectly as I would have time to head into Istanbul for dinner and eliminated the need to buy another night of accommodation, as I’d be sleeping on the approximately 4-hour flight to Dubai.
Flydubai is the low-cost subsidiary of Dubai-based Emirates and has a more regionally focused network. The airline has begun to make a name for itself in recent years by introducing lie-flat business class seats on its new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and, more recently, ordering dozens of Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, signaling that it may expand its network beyond the region.
At any rate, I was excited to have the opportunity to fly a new airline — follow along for my impressions of Flydubai.
In booking this month-long trip, I used most of the points available to me primarily to book the long-haul flights and some hotel stays here and there. Thus, I was going to pay cash for this flight.
My search on Google Flights returned a cost of just $174 for the one-way flight, which was great. But, this rate was for the Lite fare, which only included a carry-on bag weighing up to 7 kilograms (~15 pounds). Value and Flex fares were also available. Value fares included checked luggage of up to 20 kilograms (~44 pounds) but no advance seat selection, while Flex fares allowed a checked bag of up to 30 kilograms (~66 pounds) and advance seat selection.
I decided to go for the Flex fare since I suspected I’d take a hefty bag. In the end, I paid $227 for the one-way flight and used my Chase Sapphire Reserve® to pay for it to take advantage of its robust trip protection and travel insurance features that gave me peace of mind in case something were to go wrong.
After grabbing dinner in the city center, I took a taxi back to the airport. The flight was scheduled to depart at 1:45 a.m., and boarding was scheduled for 12:45 a.m. I arrived around 11:30 p.m. to give myself time to drop my bag and get through security.
I was greeted by a moderately busy terminal decorated to the nines in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic, with banners of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the Turkish flag hanging from the ceiling and adorning walls.
Flydubai had just a few desks available for check-in and bag drop. I had already checked in online but was traveling with a large bag, so I needed to stop by the bag drop area.
There were a few groups of people ahead of me, but the line moved quickly, and my bad was tagged to Dubai.
I made my way from the check-in area to security and passport control, which were found in a single area. There were plenty of lanes to pass through, and given the time I was traveling, there wasn’t much of a wait for me.
A few minutes later, I was airside and emerged from security right into a glitzy shopping area that felt like a department store in any major city around the world.
I was planning to visit a Priority Pass lounge at the airport and passed by a food store modeled after some of Istanbul’s famous bazaars that sold typical treats like Turkish delight.
The terminal was huge and modern — I wish I’d had more time to explore it!
Since I was flying economy on an airline I have no status with, I knew I’d have to use my Priority Pass membership that I receive as a perk on both the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and The Platinum Card® from American Express (enrollment required) to gain access to a lounge before this flight.
Luckily, there were a couple of options for me — the iGA Lounge being the most appealing, in my opinion. It took a little bit of searching, but I eventually found the space 1 floor up from the main terminal area.
I presented my digital Priority Pass card at the entrance and was waved in shortly after that. My first impressions led me to feel that this wasn’t at all like other Priority Pass lounges I’ve visited in the past.
The wall lining the entranceway was modern, trimmed in light wood panels and featuring a large green wall with the lounge’s logo in the center.
Beyond that, things got even more grand — literally — with a grand piano set on top of a red area rug and under an ornate light fixture in the foyer. Unfortunately, no one was playing when I visited.
Also in the entry hall was a small duty-free shop that sold everything from snacks to spirits. I thought that was interesting and a nice feature in the lounge.
As I continued walking into the lounge, I was struck by how large and open it felt. The lounge was open to the terminal, allowing much light into the space and a spacious feel thanks to the terminal’s soaring ceilings.
While it was an open space, its design also helped create individual areas that allowed guests to feel like they had a little privacy and their own space to relax.
And I loved the abundance of greenery that dotted the space — it showed there was some serious thought put into designing the space and elevating the overall feel of it, especially when compared to other Priority Pass lounges out there.
The lounge was divided into 2 halves by the central buffet and food counter area. During my late-night visit, the made-to-order food stations weren’t operating, but it looked like guests could order dishes and pay an extra amount for them.
The buffet, however, was on offer, free of charge.
The spread was impressive, with several locally inspired options, including hummus, grape leaves, yogurt dips, and more. I had just finished a full meal in downtown Istanbul, so I, unfortunately, wasn’t hungry during my lounge visit, but the food certainly looked delicious — and way above the expected offering at a Priority Pass lounge.
There was also a full bar available, located in what felt like a true lounge space, thanks to the pool table found next to it. There was a list of complimentary and for-purchase beverages.
One of the things I liked most about this lounge was that it offered a self-serve bottled beverage area, which included numerous soft drinks and water. I loved having the option to grab a water bottle before my economy flight, as they typically aren’t offered as part of whatever meal service an airline offers in that cabin.
I spent about an hour total in the lounge — I used the time primarily to charge up my devices and catch up on emails that flooded my inbox during my very long travel day(s).
The iGA Lounge in IST ranks highly in Upgraded Poinsts’ list of the best Priority Pass lounges in the world! Check out what other lounges made the list.
The boarding process is where things got a little dicey with this flight. We were scheduled to start boarding at 12:45 a.m. in advance of our 1:45 a.m. departure. I arrived at gate A5 at about 12:40 a.m. — I wasn’t flying business class, so I felt no need to get there earlier.
Our scheduled boarding time passed with nary a whisper about the process getting underway. Then, the clock struck 1 a.m., and still not a peep from the gate agents.
Passengers started getting a bit restless once it became 1:30 a.m., and there was still no indication of when boarding would begin. I noticed some passengers going up to the desk to (presumably) ask what was going on, but there was still no announcement.
Finally, at 1:50 a.m., 5 minutes after our scheduled departure time, gate agents shouted for business class passengers to line up to board. At this point, it became chaotic. As soon as business class was called to board, just about everyone in the gate area jumped out of their seats and crushed the boarding area, anxious to get on board and sleep. That was understandable, as it was almost 2 a.m. at this point.
However, despite boarding zones clearly marked on everyone’s boarding passes, there was a single call for everyone to board the plane after business class. Predictably, this didn’t go very smoothly, and there was an enormous mass of people in the boarding area, all jockeying for position to be next to board.
I was seated fairly close to the entrance of the boarding queues, so luckily, I was able to avoid a lot of the frantic rush, but I observed it and remarked to myself about just how disorganized it was.
Once in the jetway, though, it was much more typical, and I was impressed with the speed at which people took their seats and got settled on this flight.
Unfortunately, this flight wasn’t operated by one of Flydubai’s impressive-looking Boeing 737 MAX planes but rather a decidedly run-of-the-mill 737-800. This meant that business class had typical recliner seats in a 2-2 configuration instead of the airline’s lie-flat seats installed in the newer jets.
The front of the aircraft had 12 recliners, each offering a roomy 42 inches of pitch and 21 inches of width.
Back in economy, seats were arranged in a standard 3-3 configuration, though I did like the fabric pattern chosen for the seats — it was one I hadn’t seen before and was pretty cool looking, in my opinion.
There were 162 seats, each being 18 inches wide and offering 30 inches of pitch. It’s not as knee-crushing as other low-cost carriers like Spirit or Frontier, but not quite as “spacious” as what you’d find on legacy carriers in the U.S.
I found my seat — 7F — and got settled in. Overall, it was a standard economy seat on a narrow-body aircraft, save for the cool pattern and comfy fabric it was covered in.
The seatback contained an inflight entertainment screen, though it was non-functional for the entire flight. Not a big deal since my objective was to sleep on this flight, but it was weird to see not one of the screens in the economy cabin working.
Below the IFE screen were a 3.5 mm headphone jack and a USB-A port. There were also universal power outlets below the seats, which came in handy because I no longer travel with USB-A cords.
There was also a slim storage compartment with a fixed boundary, making it harder than a typical seat for storing something like a water bottle. I definitely would have preferred a traditional seat pocket.
Below the storage area was the tray table. It folded out in 2 ways, which I loved. The half-fold position was ideal for storing a beverage and even sleeping.
Meanwhile, the fully folded position was better for having a meal.
The seat had a standard amount of recline available and was about as comfortable as it could be for a seat of this type. I was able to sleep decently enough, even though it was a short redeye flight to Dubai.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn I’d receive a complimentary hot meal during this flight, even in economy. I had forgotten to note that it came with the fare I booked, so I wasn’t expecting it.
This was great for me because I didn’t eat anything in the lounge and was getting peckish again, likely due to our lengthy delay in boarding.
I didn’t hear the flight attendant mention anything about a choice of meals available. Still, I received a vegetarian meal of potatoes, chickpeas, spinach, and carrots in a tomato sauce. It was very tasty and a perfect small meal to ensure I wouldn’t arrive in Dubai hangry.
There weren’t a lot of amenities to note, which was expected for an economy flight on a low-cost carrier.
I mentioned the IFE screen that didn’t work and the power outlets available. The seat also showed that the aircraft was equipped with Wi-Fi, which made me think that the airline had shifted the entertainment options to its Wi-Fi network, similar to other airlines without screens.
Sure enough, I was right. Once I selected the plane’s Wi-Fi network, I was directed to a home page that listed options for connecting. I could have selected a pass for the entire flight that would have cost me $18 or a half-hour pass that would have cost $10. Buying the full-flight pass would have been a better value since the flight was a little over 4 hours, but I didn’t purchase any Wi-Fi as it was the middle of the night, and I just wanted to sleep as much as possible.
In addition to Wi-Fi options, the system offered a decent selection of movies.
There was also a smattering of TV shows available.
The flight details tab showed a flight map and our estimated arrival time in Dubai.
Finally, there was a weather tab.
What I appreciated most, however, was the simple graphic in the top right corner that always showed how much time was left in the flight — I loved that it was easily accessible at my fingertips.
I barely interacted with the flight attendants on this flight, but they were friendly and certainly efficient, ensuring passengers got their meals as soon as possible after taking off. While I grew annoyed with the ground staff, who didn’t announce our significantly delayed boarding, the crew on board was very solid, especially considering that Flydubai is technically a low-cost carrier.
We arrived at Dubai International Airport closer to 8 a.m. local time versus our scheduled arrival time of 7:10 a.m. On our way in, we were treated to some pretty epic views of Dubai’s iconic skyline, a treat for me since I’d never visited the city before.
We pulled into a remote stand where a bus was waiting to take us to Terminal 2’s baggage claim area and immigration hall, which was efficient and pretty quick. Soon after, I was heading to my hotel and ready to explore Dubai!
Flydubai is going to be an interesting carrier to watch in the future. It recently ordered widebody jets that we may see deployed on longer routes than the carrier offers currently. It has a fleet of 737 MAX aircraft with lie-flat seats in business class, and it also recently unveiled an entirely new business class suite product for its narrowbody MAX aircraft.
Despite a chaotic boarding process, the flight was great, and I’d certainly fly with the airline again if I were in the area. However, next time, I’d love to try its premium product!
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
Flydubai operates a few types of Boeing 737 aircraft. On the 737-800, there are 162 seats in economy arranged in a 3-3 configuration.
If you’re flying in economy, you’ll receive a complimentary meal if you book a Value or Flex ticket. Lite fares will have the option to prepurchase a meal before departure. In addition, there are food items and beverages available for purchase.
Flydubai is owned by The Emirates Group, which also owns Emirates. The Emirates Group is owned by the Investment Group of Dubai, a government entity.
Technically, Flydubai is a low-cost airline, but the experience — especially if you choose a higher-priced fare — is a step or 2 above many of the low-cost carriers around the world.
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