STOCK Dubai airport
Travel industry sources say UAE-India ticket rates this month are actually averaging higher than in January 2019, the pre-pandemic year. Image Credit: Dubai Airport

Dubai: After the highs in December, airfares on UAE-India routes have dipped – but it’s happening in only one direction. Tickets from India to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other services to the UAE are still staying on the higher side, brought on tourist demand and those flying in to seek jobs.

Tourist numbers from India had been on the higher side since November, peaking in the final two weeks of December. Travel industry sources say the arrival numbers have not seen a marked dip unlike in the past.

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This means, for instance, a Mumbai-to-Dubai flight between January 23-31 will average Dh1,140 compared to the Dh861 listed for travel from Dubai to Mumbai in the same period. Similarly, the cheapest Dubai to Thiruvananthapuram flights are priced at Dh1,195, but return flights are Dh1,839, according to travel data aggregator SkyScanner. (Travel agents say the Kerala sector fares will remain higher than to the rest of the country as demand for VFR (visiting family and friends) trips will remain on a high.)

When will fares rise next?
Around March is the usual period for the first rate increases on UAE-India routes, once the Indian school exams are done with.
Economy class fares on budget carriers to Mumbai, Delhi and Kochi are averaging Dh888-Dh1,026 for departure on January 23 and return on February 1.
Fares from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai are even lower, going for Dh744. Abu Dhabi to New Delhi flights are at Dh965 and flights to Hyderabad run to Dh997. A Sharjah to Mumbai flight ticket is at Dh842.
This comes as a respite for many travelers to India after December fares to and from India shot up 30 to 40 per cent higher than off-peak rates.
But from mid-March, fares to India will take a sharp upward turn to Dh1,150 and higher and go up further once Ramadan begins.

“We still have groups of tourists coming from various parts of India,” said Santhosh Cheriyan, General Manager at Akbar Travels of India Middle East. “There is also considerable activity in the meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) sector in the UAE.” (The first major events and exhibitions for 2023 have already started at major venues in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with the latter hosting its high-profile ADSW energy industry focused conference. Dubai will have the Intersec event running.)

At least 75 per cent of the inward traffic from India come from leisure travellers, said Surendranath Menon, Director at Equator Travel Management. “There is not much demand for travel to India from the UAE as many NRI families are busy with final term school exams. Demand for corporate travel is also low.”

At the same time, Indian travellers are coming into the country to experience the weather and the Dubai Shopping Festival.  

January 2023 fares are higher

Travel industry sources say January 2023 airfares from UAE to India are slightly higher than during the first month of 2019, which was the year before Covid came into the equation. Except during January 2021 and in 2022, considered outlier years due to the pandemic, airfares to India are historically low at this time of the year.

“There was no travel to and from India in January 2021 and 2022 since India had tightened entry rules due to the Delta and Omicron variants of the COVID-19,” said Cheriyan. “Since there was no demand, fares were very low. One-way rates were as low as Dh280-Dh330 in January 2019 on Air India and budget flights.”

Today, tickets are averaging Dh313. “Dubai-to-India fares are more or less at-par compared to the fare structure in 2019,” said Husain Iqbal, General Manager – GSA at Sharaf Travel. “Return Economy fares (India to UAE) in January 2019 hit a maximum of Dh1,500 for certain sectors. It is performing the same way right now

Indian tourists keep heading for Dubai
Travelers from India to Dubai numbered 1.6 million from January to November last year, according to figures from Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET). India’s flag carrier Air India had load factors of 90 per cent, boosted by VFR and tourist trips, said P. P. Singh, Regional Manager for Gulf, Middle East and Africa at Air India.
Air India and Air India Express have a combined allotment of 50,000 seats to operate to and from the UAE.
Moreover, Indian travellers still have to wait weeks and months to get a Schengen or US visa - and the UAE naturally becomes the first choice. “Our December load factors were also at 90 per cent, and in November, it went up to 94-95 per cent,” said Singh. "Demand hasn’t weakened, and fares have also calmed down after the winter season frenzy," he said.

Economy airfares for UAE- India-UAE travel

  • Dubai to Mumbai – Dh861
  • Mumbai to Dubai – Dh1,361
  • Dubai to Delhi – Dh1,078
  • Sharjah to Delhi – Dh929
  • Abu Dhabi to Mumbai – Dh749
  • Kochi to Abu Dhabi – Dh892
  • Dubai to Kochi – Dh963
  • Kochi to Dubai – Dh1,144
  • RAK to Mumbai – Dh1,012

All fares are for departure on January 23 and return on February 1.