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High frequency of flights is bringing down rates... India's repatriation flights from the UAE this month will total a staggering 270. All that capacity means ticket rates have slipped to Dh500 levels, according to travel agencies. Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: Airfare to the most prominent destinations in India have dropped to half of what they were going for during the repatriation flights. A ticket to Mumbai, Bengaluru or Kochi can be had for Dh300-Dh500 according to indicative rates with travel agencies, as against the Dh1,300-Dh1,500 they commanded just weeks ago.

“Fares on India-bound routes have reduced due to the higher frequency of flights,” said a spokesperson for Shams Abu Dhabi, the travel agency. India is operating 270 repatriation – or Vande Bharat – flights from the UAE all through this month.

At the same time, most of the Indian states have dialed down on the requirements that passengers need to go through as part of the safety protocol measures. With the exception of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, no other state now requires a PCR test on arrival.

But one thing is for sure – despite the slashing of rates, demand remains in a downtrend. “Dubai-India routes are pretty slim pickings [now],” said Saj Ahmad, Chief Analyst at StrategicAero Research. This is also “partly because of India’s inability to control the spread of COVID-19.”

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A job search pick up

Interestingly, jobseekers are once again apparent on this sector after a near six-month absence. “People from India have started to come again to look for jobs,” said a spokesperson for Dubai-based Happy Trip. “Relaxation of COVID-19 rules in Dubai and India has helped,” he added.

Not just Dubai, other emirates too are taking steps to encourage demand for travel. The Department of Civil Aviation in Ras Al Khaimah has announced that expat residents will soon be allowed to enter via Ras Al Khaimah International Airport from October 15, without obtaining prior permission from authorities.

A waiting game

India, which has banned regular air travel to other countries until October 31, will allow international flights to be fully operational again by the first quarter of 2021, the Minister of Civil Aviation, Hardeep Singh Puri, had said. The number of domestic flights - and passengers - will reach pre-COVID-19 levels between Diwali season next month and New Year, Puri was quoted in media reports.

Full resumption of international flights will depend on the coronavirus situation in the country, Puri said. "I cannot anticipate whether other countries will allow in people from India. We have gone ahead and made the best out of a very difficult situation [and] navigated through turbulence."

Pending resumption of scheduled international air travel, India has air bubbles with 16 countries with a few more under negotiation. Air bubbles are temporary flying arrangements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services.