Dubai: UAE-based Indian expatriates looking forward to celebrating Diwali back home should act promptly in booking their flight tickets.
Airfares to most Indian cities have already increased by 15 to 20 per cent compared to the October rates. Furthermore, as the Diwali festival approaches closer, set for November 12, airfares are expected to further escalate, particularly during the first week of November.
Rashid Abbas, Managing Director of Arooha Travels, said, “Airfares to India had dropped drastically after the summer highs. Due to lower demand, return airfares were available for Dh780 to Dh1,100 to most destinations in India from September until the second week of October.” Now that the Dussehra festivities have begun, fares have started to climb steadily, said Abbas. “Families are travelling to India for weeklong getaways for the festive season,” he added.
Connecting flights are an option
In some cases, travellers are also opting for layover flights to other Indian airports. “For example, instead of taking a direct Dubai- Bengaluru — Dubai flight, travellers are having a layover at Delhi, which offers fares at least Dh700 cheaper,” said Abbas. Direct flights from Dubai to Bengaluru are Dh1,482 for travel from November 6 to 15. An Air India flight via Delhi costs Dh782.
“It also depends on the hours travellers must spend at the connecting airport. If it’s a one-two hour layover, passengers are immediately booking the layover option. However, if the layover time exceeds 4 hours, they choose direct flights,” said Wasim Ansari of Travel Square Tourism.
Transit hubs have higher fares
Notably, airfares to major transit hubs in India, such as Bengaluru, Chennai, and Kolkata, as well as destinations with fewer direct flight options from the UAE, like Lucknow, Varanasi, Kannur, Jaipur, and Surat, have seen their fares double in comparison to October prices, said travel agents.
Basheer Mohammed, the general manager of Europe Travel and Tours, said, “Transit hubs like Bengaluru and Chennai in the South Indian sector have historically displayed higher airfares, despite the prevalence of direct flights to these airports.”
He added, “Emirates operates three daily flights to Bengaluru. Nevertheless, the capacities on these flights from Bengaluru consistently average around 75 per cent, as most passengers have connecting flights to European and US destinations.” Bengaluru and Chennai are major IT hubs in India, housing the headquarters of several US-based conglomerates.
“These fares are subject to change and are likely to increase by 15 to 20 per cent in the coming days,” according to Mohammed. In comparison, return Economy fares for this sector from September to October, after the peak summertime travel period, averaged around Dh1,100.
Lower frequency, higher fares
Even destinations with limited flight frequencies exhibit remarkably high fares compared to places that offer direct connections to the UAE. “For instance, an Emirates flight to Kolkata from November 6 to 15 commands a substantial fare of Dh3,255,” said an agent with Uranus Travels.
Similarly, flights to Ahmedabad are averaging Dh1,740 despite the availability of direct services by low-cost carriers like IndiGo and SpiceJet. Even flydubai provides direct flights to this destination at the same price of Dh1,740.
Flights to Varanasi, operated by Air India Express, are currently priced at an average of Dh1,902 during this time frame. In contrast, return Economy flights to Jaipur are being sold for Dh1,982 by Air India Express, and Air Arabia offers tickets at Dh2,177. In comparison, fares for these routes during September-October typically ranged from Dh982 to Dh1,100.
Very busy season ahead
According to the Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism, Dubai welcomed 1,568,000 travellers from January to August this year, a 44 per cent hike compared to the same period a year ago. “India continues to retain its status as the biggest source market for Dubai. About 18 per cent of Dubai’s visitors are from the South Asian region,” said Ansari.
And with mega events like the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to COP28, this sector will see a substantial rise in inbound travel. That said, there may be no respite to the high airfares from the second week of November until the first week of January 2024. “Fares will steadily climb and remain in the Dh1,800 to Dh2,800 range until the end of the winter festive season,” said Ansari.