Mumbai International has done away with the across-the-board quarantine restrictions. Image Credit: Rex Features

Dubai: Fares from high-traffic Indian cities to Dubai are recording sharp drops as UAE comes out of its peak tourist season. Seats on the New Delhi to Dubai route can be booked for less than Dh700 compared to the Dh,1000-Dh1,500 a month ago, while a ticket from Mumbai is averaging up to Dh1,000.

Catching a flight from the South Indian city of Kochi can be as low as Dh637. “Fares will drop further in February, before rebounding during Ramadan period from April,” said a spokesperson for Dubai Link Travel and Tours.

Quarantine drop

Mumbai, which relies heavily on traffic from Dubai, dropped a seven-day quarantine requirement it had imposed on passengers flying in from the UAE. State-wide COVID-19 restrictions were brought back in response to a spike in the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.

“Passengers can fly to Mumbai and then take a domestic flight to their final destination – they only have to be quarantined if the PCR test produces a positive result,” said a travel agent.

The full-fledged return of the Dubai-Mumbai route is good news for both airlines and passengers. Dubai, Doha and Sharjah were the top international destinations from Mumbai airport in 2021, replacing previous placeholders such as London Heathrow and Newark.

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International restrictions

Travel agents said the return of scheduled flights will help in further bringing down fares by removing limits on flight capacity. “If all restrictions are removed, then all the airlines will be scheduled to fly to all the airports,” said the spokesperson at Dubai Link Travel. Currently, Spicejet – a major low-cost carrier operating on the route – is flying from Mumbai to Sharjah and not Dubai.”

India recently announced that the suspension of scheduled international commercial passenger services has been extended until February 28. Flights under the air bubble arrangement will not be affected, the country’s aviation regulator said.

India had banned the operation of international flights in 2020 to contain and control the spread of COVID-19. Flight restrictions, however, were later eased under air bubble arrangements with certain countries.

New routes

During the pandemic, airlines launched flights to new destinations to tap into the ever-increasing demand for travel. Budget carrier Air Arabia Abu Dhabi has begun operating direct flights to Kochi, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram. Indian low-cost airline Go First is now connecting Srinagar and Sharjah with four weekly flights.

“All the routes started by airlines to South Asia can be dissected from three different perspectives – is it a politically-induced gimmick, a genuine revenue opportunity or part of an already existing route?” said Mark Martin, CEO of Martin Consulting, an aviation consultancy.

“Having a flight from Amritsar or Ludhiana (Punjab) to UAE makes more sense,” said Martin. “Kerala is a no-brainer – predominantly, the southern states of India are the baseline worker market.”