Virat Kohli
First came the IPL T20 matches and now there is the World Cup on. All of which is reflected in the India-UAE ticket rates. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Airline ticket rates on the India-UAE sector are not seeing any drops, with the rush of demand continuing for the ongoing T20 cricket World Cup games as well as the Expo 2020.

Flights from New Delhi to Dubai cost between Dh800 to Dh1,500, while some flights from Mumbai to here are going for Dh2,000 plus. Travel agents say the higher ticket prices is partly the result of India’s bubble agreement with the UAE, which limits the number of flights operated on the route. (Since the beginning of the pandemic last year, India has been operating flights under ‘air bubble’ agreements, giving the country’s airlines an advantage.)

“Once the scheduled flights open up, flight ticket prices might come down,” said the spokesperson for a UAE-based travel agency. So far, the number of flights deployed on the route is nowhere near the levels seen earlier this year. Flights came to a complete stop in April when UAE suspended travel from India and several other countries due to a second spike in COVID-19 cases.

The UAE-India route, which was the world’s second-largest aviation sector in March in terms of seats, is not in the Top 10 anymore, according to data from UK-based consultancy OAG.

New routes

Even though the restrictions are hurting airlines and passengers, demand is still very much there. A survey conducted by online booking website – MakeMyTrip - showed that around 87 per cent of those polled, aged between 30-35, showed more enthusiasm to travel internationally before the year ends.

Mumbai - India’s second largest airport - is seeing most of its international passengers heading to destinations such as Mauritius, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, Seychelles, and Male. “Even though the pandemic bought the momentum of the travel industry to a halt, the past few months have shown an upward trend in passengers opting for international leisure travel through Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA),” said the airport.

Between July to September, CSMIA witnessed over 288,860 passengers flying overseas for leisure travel, up nearly 220 per cent, compared to same period in 2020. Dubai and Doha continued to be on top of the charts with passenger influx around 108,060 and 104,390 passengers, respectively. This was followed by Male, which saw around 57,400 passengers travelling in and out of CSMIA.

During a recent interview with Centre for Aviation (CAPA), Indigo CEO Rono Dutta said that international traffic for India’s largest low-cost carrier had increased since major destinations like Doha, Dubai and Sharjah opened up. “My next push is to get Saudi Arabia and Thailand – those are again important markets for us,” said Dutta.

Charter flights do well

Though regular commercial flights are back, chartered flights also witnessed significant uptick in demand. Mumbai airport said roughly 300,000 passengers opted for chartered flights between July to September. Qatar Airways, Indigo and Emirates catered to the highest number of passengers with 75,637, 68,062 and 52,699, respectively.

New routes

Apart from rising traffic, new routes are also opening up to meet the surge in demand. Go First, formerly known as GoAir, announced that it will operate four flights every week between Srinagar and Sharjah.

“We are delighted to be the first airline to connect Jammu & Kashmir with UAE and it bears testimony to our commitment to the region,” said Kaushik Khona, CEO, Go First, in a statement. “We believe that this connectivity will be pivotal in bilateral exchange of trade and tourism between the two regions.”

Expo and World Cup

“Why would I go back to India, all of India is already here for the World Cup,” said a founder of a major Indian startup.

Thousands of cricket fans have already landed in UAE for the T20 World Cup, which will go on until November 14. The Expo 2020 has also brought in tourists, businessmen and organizers from all over. According to the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai (GDRFA), 477,101 passengers have arrived in Dubai between September 30 until October 10.