STOCK Dubai airport and Emirates airlines
Emirates will be starting their full complement of weekly flights to India in April, creating a significant capacity boost on the sector. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Full options are finally opening up for travel between the UAE and India, with Emirates airline to raise weekly frequency of its flights to 170 a week to nine cities in India from early April. As other airlines too ramp up their UAE-India schedules, this could soon have a bearing on demand and ticket rates during the Ramadan and Eid period.

The final weeks of March – usually a heavy travel period for Indian expats because of the Spring school breaks – is seeing fewer bookings - but that’s changing quickly. After two years of COVID-19 created disruptions, the Indian government decided to restore international flights in line with existing bilateral agreements from the end of this month.

This was what prompted Emirates to go in with its full pre-COVID-19 schedule to India. “This is a big jump from the truncated schedule they were allowed to operate as per the air bubble arrangements (in the last two years),” said Vinamra Longani, Head of Operations at Sarin & Co, an aviation industry focussed law firm. (Emirates currently operates around 88 flights a week to India.)

Fares drop

Ticket rates between UAE-India have seen drops in recent days, but the upcoming high-demand phase just ahead and during the Eid holidays will make sure fares do not go below a certain limit. So, anyone wanting to travel ahead of Ramadan will be seeing some good offers.

The frequency of flights has increased as of March 27, the prices have reduced because of the higher number of seats available

- Mohammed Qamar, senior holiday consultant at Dubai Link

A one-way ticket from New Delhi to Dubai is around Dh700-Dh800 for the first week of April compared to Dh1,000-Dh1,500 from earlier this year. Mumbai will be a lot cheaper option with fares starting from just Dh589. The south Indian city of Kochi is still on the higher end with most airlines charging over Dh1,000.

Will other airlines join?

Qamar said it is highly likely that other UAE-based airlines will raise their India capacity in the coming weeks. “We don’t have an official confirmation from carriers such as flydubai and Air Arabia as yet.”

flydubai, Air Arabia and Air Arabia Abu Dhabi operate multiple services between UAE and various Indian cities. From the Indian side, carriers such as Indigo and the newly-revitalised Air India are also expected to increase their flights.

Full connectivity

Things are going back to normal at India’s busy airports as well. Mumbai airport, which counts Dubai and Abu Dhabi among its top destinations, has seen the resumption of about 238 commercial international passenger flight movements after airlines got the green signal from the Indian government.

This requirement from the Indian government is the only constraint at the moment - once it is relaxed, we will see travel returning to pre-Covid levels

- T. P. Sudheesh, General Manager of Deira Tours and Travels

Mumbai now caters to five new international destinations such as Baghdad, Warsaw, Moscow, Helsinki, Ho Chi Minh City, whereas some destinations such as New York (JFK), Seoul and Tashkent have discontinued operations due to the COVID-19 impact.

One hurdle
There’s one significant hurdle standing in the way of UAE-India travel returning to full normalcy - mandatory PCR testing. Passengers flying from UAE to the South Asian country have to still get tested 48 hours prior to departure and that has not gone down well with many travellers.

Peak period

The number of passengers travelling through DXB is expected to increase between March 25-28 and again between April 7-9 as schools’ end for the spring holidays, according to a Dubai Airports’ statement.

Emirates said it expects a high number of passenger departures from Dubai due to the upcoming spring break and end of Expo. “We expect an increased waiting time at check in due to COVID 19 travel requirement checks and safety procedures,” the airline said on its website. “We encourage you to check in early and ensure you have all the relevant documents ready for check in.”

As travellers take their Spring breaks, Etihad Airways is gearing up to receive a large volume of passengers at Abu Dhabi International Airport. “With the removal of most travel restrictions, we’re looking forward to welcoming our guests on board over the coming holiday period,” said Terry Daly, Executive Director Guest Experience, Brand and Marketing at Etihad Airways, in a statement.