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UK to UAE passenger traffic is witnessing a strong recovery as many Britons are attracted to the Emirates for its pleasant winter weather conditions. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: After a year of pandemic-triggered restrictions and passenger caps at the Heathrow Airport in London, UAE- UK air traffic is witnessing a robust recovery in winter 2022, travel experts operating in the sector have said. London Heathrow (LHR) is the second most booked route in terms of flight traffic, witnessing a 90 per cent increase in bookings compared to 2021, according to UAE’s leading travel provider dnata Travel.

While few travellers are concerned that the pre-Christmas strike of baggage handlers at Heathrow could impact their holiday plans, travel experts have confirmed that UAE carriers are not on the list of airlines which will be affected by the strike.

Airlines that are likely to be affected by the three-day strike are Air Canada, American Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Air Portugal, Austrian Airlines, Qantas, Egypt Air, Aer Lingus and Finnair, said experts with knowledge of the matter.

Boom season for UAE-UK travel

Meerah Ketait, Head of Retail and Leisure UAE at dnata Travel, told Gulf News, “Travel to the UK and Europe is prevalent for the winter 2022- 23 season. We are witnessing a 90 per cent increase in bookings for this route compared to 2021.”

Meerah explained that the UK has also moved into our top three most in-demand destinations for hotel bookings for winter 2022-23, with London taking the majority (70 per cent) and other bookings spread across Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

“The popularity of these major UK cities for travel represents a growing trend for customers to opt for hotel stays close to some of the world’s most famous festive-themed markets and other events this winter,” she explained.

Moreover, inbound traffic from UK to UAE is also witnessing a strong recovery as many Britons are attracted to the Emirates for its pleasant winter weather conditions. Afi Ahmed, the Managing Director of Smart Travels, said, “This is the time for leisure travel. Regarding UK-bound traffic, most British expatriates living in the UAE are heading home for Christmas festivities. And the UAE-bound traffic from the UAE includes Britons who want to enjoy winter in the UAE. Moreover, the ongoing FIFA World Cup is another reason for travellers from the UK to come into the Emirates in large droves.”

Economy airfares on a direct flight from Dubai to London are averaging at Dh2,681 while flights from Abu Dhabi are priced at Dh4,495 (Etihad Airways) for departure on December 9 and return on January 2, according to travel aggregator SkyScanner.

Avoid last-minute visa applications

Regarding visa applications, VFS Global has also confirmed to Gulf News that it is witnessing a steady demand for UK visas for end-of-year travel. However, it is still recommended that travellers apply for visas well in advance to avoid any last-minute hassles.

According to a statement from UK Visas and Immigration, “Visit visas, including standard visitor visa applications, are taking on average five weeks to process; however, some applications might take longer. We are working hard to process applications to return to the three-week service standard.”

There were 2,610,024 visas granted in the year ending September 2022, 18 per cent fewer (-561,705) than in the calendar year 2019, primarily due to 1.2 million fewer grants of visitor visas. However, the total number of franchises continues to increase after the global pandemic.

“Of the visas granted in the latest 12 months, 48 per cent were to visit, 23 per cent were under the study routes, 15 per cent were under the work routes, three per cent were for family reasons, and 11 per cent for other reasons,” stated the authority.