Delhi Airport
The Delhi government has toughened up requirements for all international arrivals. This too has eaten into demand among expats to make a trip. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Travelling to India? Then you are in a position to make full use of the drop in ticket rates. Be prepared, however, for some tough quarantine requirements.

Ticket rates for Mumbai and Kerala have fallen thanks to new guidelines for international arrivals, including a mandatory seven-day quarantine. “Fares are down on sectors with restrictions,” said a spokesperson for Dubai Links.

Fares to Mumbai have plunged to Dh300 or lower, which was last seen during the peak of the UAE-India travel ban last year.

Daily bookings on the Dubai-India route dropped to 120 in the last week of December on the travel portal EaseMyTrip, compared to 142 bookings a day the week before. The new work week in the UAE has not changed the fare patterns on the UAE-India route. “Airlines are charging the same fares as before – October-March is generally the peak period,” said a travel agent.

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Inward flights

Flights from Delhi to Dubai cost between Dh1,000 and Dh1,500, but airlines are charging as low as Dh330. The Delhi government recently issued an order stating that all international passengers testing positive for COVID-19 on arrival at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport have to isolate at designated facilities, with paid as well as free options available.

Passengers, who test positive for COVID-19 after RT-PCR tests, and their contacts are being shifted to designated COVID-19 care centers. Those looking to fly from Mumbai to Dubai may have to shell out a bit extra with some airlines charging up to Dh2,600 for a one-way ticket.

Flying from Kochi in the south Indian state of Kerala to Dubai still costs Dh1,300 on average. Flying back is a lot cheaper though with even Emirates airline and flydubai charging between Dh300-Dh500.

Flights from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai usually cost more due to the low frequency of flights from the city. Fares are seen starting from Dh1,500 and even touching Dh4,000 for some flights. Flights from Dubai to the city are available for around Dh390.

Flights to Dubai from Kannur and Kozhikode – two other major airports in Kerala – will cost between Dh1,000-Dh1,400. Flying to these cities from Dubai is between Dh380-Dh600.

More delays

With Omicron cases surging in both India and UAE, it looks like the resumption of normal flights between the two countries will take longer. India is currently targeting January 31 to end its ‘bubble’ agreement policy, but aviation experts say that the government will most likely postpone the date again.

Mark Martin, CEO of Martin Consulting, says that while normal services need to resume at some point, one can’t rule out Omicron and its potential impact. “There has to be a logical resumption of service, we cannot be oblivious to that fact,” said Martin. “We don’t know how Omicron is going to pan out. So, airlines will continue to operate essential services such as flying medicines and medical equipment and transporting vaccines.”

India reported 123 Omicron cases on Sunday, taking its total cases over the 1,700 mark. Unlike most aviation industry participants, who have been outspoken against the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on travel, Martin prefers a more cautious approach.

“The forceful push to try and bring back life to normal doesn't come from airlines, but from the consumer,” said Martin.

When it comes to travel during the pandemic, Martin believes a more “radical” system might be in the making. “Airlines will continue to fly and hotels will keep booking guests, but there will be a new level of caution along with renewed measures where you have people categorized as red, amber and green,” said Martin.

Crucial year

2022 is a big year for Indian aviation. Jet Airways, which suspended operations due to high levels of debt in 2019, will take to the skies once again and may potentially offer flights to Dubai and UAE.

Akasa, backed by billionaire investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, will start operations by mid-2022 and offer another low-cost option to India’s price-sensitive market. During the Dubai Airshow in November, India’s newest airline placed a near $9 billion order with Boeing for 72 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

These developments do not take away the fact India’s airlines are saddled with debt and are bleeding cash every day. The latest Omicron variant means the return of state-wide restrictions, which have already dampened travel demand.

“The bigger concern is related to how we collectively as an industry respond and deal with this because there are limits to even banks and financial institutions supporting the sector,” said Martin.