Dubai: Passenger traffic on UAE airlines are now up 30-45 per cent over July and August numbers, with more residents willing to go on short breaks outside the country. Simultaneously, Dubai’s efforts to woo tourists back is starting to pay off, especially on the London-Dubai routes.
“We continue to see signs of recovery as more countries start to lift restrictions on international travel,” said Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO at flydubai. “We remain agile in our operations and committed to gradually adding more as we look to this new way of travel in the months to come.”
If that’s not enough, there is even talk of a potential re-start to commercial flights in India, and which will obviously be another major boost for UAE airlines. India will end its Vande Bharat Mission – the repatriation services it had launched for stranded citizens and expats after the pandemic - on October 24 and allow “normal flights on limited routes”, said a travel industry source. “By November, airlines will be running at 70-80 per cent of pre-COVID-19 flights between UAE and India.”
If that happens, UAE’s airlines can reasonably expect to close out the year on a relative high – after all that they have been through so far this year, those are numbers they will find a lot of comfort in.
Nearing end of ‘distress flights’
Travel industry sources in the UAE are in consensus that a majority of the repatriation requirements are done with, and whatever demand is generated for air travel will come from those with less pressing needs.
Booking enquiries have gone up as hitherto home-bound UAE residents finally get back into travel mode. “A majority of bookings are for India, UK and European destination,” said a spokesperson at Al Tayer Travels. “We also have inbound enquiries from Europe and India. About 50-60 per cent of “distress” travel has already taken place.”
Holidays back on agenda
A spokesperson for Shams Abu Dhabi said families had booked with the travel agency to go to Maldives this month. The country, which reopened its borders to tourists in July, has quickly re-emerged as popular destination for UAE residents to dust off the pandemic blues.
In fact, the sudden spike in demand has prompted Emirates to raise its fares to the island nation by Dh800 to Dh4,000. And another airline - flydubai - wants in on the action.
On Sunday, the budget carrier announced that it would resume flights to the capital Malé from October 27 onwards due to “popular demand”. Another region where UAE residents seem to be interested in going is Seychelles. “They are also travelling to Barcelona and the UK,” said a spokesperson at Shams Abu Dhabi.
Dubai is also experiencing a fair amount of inbound tourism as well, ever since it began issuing tourist visas in July. (Hotels too have confirmed that a good number of properties have seen 40 per cent plus occupancy rates in recent days, and much of that demand coming from overseas arrivals.)
Bringing back the A380s
At a time when all the talk has been about short-haul flights and single-aisle aircraft, Emirates is deploying its A380s across multiple routes, including, recently, Moscow. And for strict commercially sound reasons too.
“I would imagine that they would be operating with high passenger load factors,” said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research. “Otherwise, it’s simply not worth operating the A380 given how costly it is. Emirates is still amongst the most expensive.
"Clearly, people aren’t put off by higher prices because they know that Emirates is high quality, regardless of which cabin you fly in.”
The airline’s Airbus A380 currently serves Cairo, Paris, London Heathrow, Guangzhou, Toronto, and Moscow. The airline will “gradually expand the deployment of the jumbo aircraft in line with demand and operational approvals,” it said in a statement last week.
Now, if forecasts about November offering more bountiful passenger demand come true, then the additional capacities will come in mighty handy. UAE's airlines await the return to passenger loads at 60-70 per cent.
Flights to Harare, Zimbabwe will start on October 1 and Mauritius on October 3. The addition of the five cities will expand the current network to 92 destinations, with its African network numbering 19 cities.
Emirates will operate to Harare with two weekly flights linked to its Lusaka service. The linked services will connect Zambia and Zimbabwe to key destinations across Europe, the Far East, the Americas, Australasia and West Asia with a stop in Dubai.
Flights from Dubai to Mauritius will initially operate once a week on Saturdays, supporting the Mauritian government's repatriation efforts to bring its citizens home