Stock India airport passengers
Closer to a return? A resumption of services to the UAE will see an influx of UAE expats making a return after being stuck in India for weeks and even months. Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: Bookings have re-opened on flight services from next week to Dubai from destinations in India, going by travel websites. Routes from India to Dubai are expected to re-open on July 15 after going through multiple delays, in part due to the fast-spreading ‘Delta variant’ of the COVID-19 virus. Abu Dhabi will allow Indian passengers from July 21. “We are expecting flights to open after Eid,” said a travel industry source.

On the first day of the to be confirmed travel resumption, the Indian carrier Vistara will operate a flight from New Delhi to Dubai. Emirates airline and budget carrier flydubai are seen as re-starting flights from India on July 16. Etihad Airways will resume flights from July 22.

Announcements so far

Emirates had previously said it would resume flights connecting India, South Africa and Nigeria to Dubai from June 23. This was following an announcement by the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management in Dubai saying passengers from India with a valid residence visa who have received two doses of a UAE-approved vaccine will be allowed to travel to Dubai.

In the weeks leading up to the date, bookings opened for a brief period, during which several passengers bought tickets for their return to the UAE. Amidst this confusion, Air India put out a tweet saying that flights between India and UAE would remain suspended until July 6 - this was later confirmed by Emirates and Etihad.

On June 25, UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority in a Notice Issued to Airmen (NOTAM) said flights from India and 13 other countries - including Liberia, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic Of Congo, Uganda, Zambia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and South Africa - will remain suspended until July 21.

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Likely fares

Fares from Mumbai, India’s financial capital, to Dubai are in the range of Dh721 to Dh1,855. New Delhi is a little cheaper with the highest available fare at Dh1,597. Tickets from the South Indian city of Kochi can cost up to Dh2,799. Some flights are available for even Dh900.

Boost for airlines

A potential re-opening will be a big boost for airlines operating on the routes. Indian airlines, in particular, will rely more on international travel in the coming period as the Delta variant hurts domestic travel demand. India’s domestic traffic fell 71 per cent in May compared to May 2019 amid the emergence of the more contagious variant. This compares to a 42 per cent decline registered in April versus the same month two years ago.

“The positive thing is that all of the indications are that the variants are still being dealt with by the vaccines that are in place,” said Willie Walsh, head of IATA (International Air Travel Association). “All of the vaccines are highly effective, particularly where people are fully vaccinated against all of the variants.

“You have to challenge whether putting additional restrictions in place to try and keep it out when it's already in. Does that make sense? In our opinion, it doesn't,” said Walsh, during a media briefing on Wednesday.

Emirates' Pakistan flights to start July 16
Emirates will resume flights from Pakistan on July 16.

The airline said this in response to a customer query: "Our flights from Pakistan are suspended until 15th July. Flights are available from 16th July onwards. Please continue to monitor our travel updates, requirements and flight availability."

As per indicative fares, flights from Karachi to Dubai will cost in the range of Dh615 to Dh790. Flights from Lahore can cost Dh1, 030.

Fares from Islamabad are the highest with some listings at Dh2,314.