Saudi Arabia expects 1 million visitors for this year's Hajj. Early July is when airline rates from UAE to Saudi Arabia are seen touching their highs. Image Credit: Wikimedia

Dubai: Airline rates between the UAE and Saudi Arabia are firming up as demand starts to peak for the Hajj pilgrimage.

Fares have risen across all routes from the Kingdom as Riyadh and Dammam are now the only two airports where visit-visa holders can land. Those with a Hajj visa are permitted to enter Saudi Arabia via Jeddah, Madinah, Yanbu, and Taif international airports. This arrangement will be in place until July 9.

An Emirates flight from Dubai to Riyadh on June 23 will cost more than Dh1,400. Saudi low-cost carriers flynas and flyadeal are charging Dh400-Dh500 on the route. In the second week of July, Emirates flights will cost around Dh1,600, while the budget carriers will hike their fares to more than Dh1,000.

Flights from Dubai to Dammam will be anywhere between Dh500-Dh1,500. Fares will dip in July with full-service carriers charging only Dh900-Dh1,200.

Jeddah, which will see most of the Hajj-related traffic, is on the more expensive side with most flights from Dubai are going for Dh1,000 and above. Fares are seen staying around the same level mid-July even with airlines adding more capacity.

Emirates will operate 31 additional flights to Jeddah and double daily flights to Medina from June 23 to July 20. These services will run in parallel with Emirates’ regularly scheduled services. "Saudi Arabia has greatly expanded its Hajj participation this year to nearly a million pilgrims,” the airline said.

Business travel returns

Post-summer, demand on UAE-Saudi Arabia routes will be supported by business travel, especially since many UAE companies are now looking to set up offices Riyadh and Jeddah. According to aviation data firm OAG, Dubai-Riyadh is the fifth busiest international air route in the world with 235,700 seats. (With more than 252,000 seats, Cairo-Jeddah is in the third spot.)

Airlines are taking note of this and introducing new flights. Starting from September, Hungary-based low-cost airline Wizz Air will launch flights connecting Saudi Arabia’s Dammam to Rome, Vienna and Abu Dhabi.

“Our expansion will bring ultra-low-cost travel to the Kingdom,” said Robert Carey, President of Wizz Air. “Our regular flights to Dammam will provide year-round sun for tourists, and provide a mix of destinations for residents of the Kingdom.”

Flights from NEOM

Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) will launch flights from NEOM – the planned futuristic city in the country’s northwest – to Dubai by June end and there are plans to connect to London soon. Travel to Saudi Arabia will get its biggest boost yet when the Kingdom introduces a new visa scheme for GCC residents. The country is planning to invest up to $200 billion and welcome 100 million visitors by 2030.

Last year, Saudi Arabia’s tourist arrivals were at 72 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, which even then ‘outperformed’ the regional average, said Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of Saudi Tourism Authority, during an industry event last month. “In the first quarter this year, we witnessed a growth of over 130 per cent versus pre-pandemic and we believe that this will continue to grow.”