Dubai: Home to tradition, cozy cottages and Christmas-themed markets, there’s no better place to celebrate the holiday than the UK. The issue this year, however, is getting there.
Despite this year being the first Christmas since 2019 that the UK has had no COVID-induced travel restrictions, the UK Border Force strikes over the festive season have dampened holidaymakers’ plans.
However, despite the travel chaos that has ensued at the country’s various airports, UK-bound travellers from the UAE intend to go ahead with their Christmas and New Year’s celebrations in Britain. Passengers expect to experience delays at London Heathrow, Birmingham, Gatwick, Glasgow, and Manchester Airports from December 23-26 and 29-31.
Though most of the flight cancellations and baggage delays are faced by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic passengers, UAE carriers – Etihad Airways and Emirates – have assured their passengers there will not be any change in operations during this period.
Husain Iqbal, General Manager – GSA at Sharaf Travel, said: “Passengers who have booked their tickets ahead of time are not deviating from their travel plans. They are not cancelling their travel plans. For non-Britons, visas to the UK are an issue. So, most travellers have planned ahead of time.”
Iqbal added: “We also have close to zero cancellations and robust inbound traffic from the UK. Compared to the weather in the UK, it is enjoyable here in the UAE. Many Britons also travel inward to celebrate Xmas and New Year festivities.”
Iqbal said he was also expecting passengers to change plans as even the transport department workers are striking during this period. “But for many people here, the UK is like their second home, and they know how to get around the country easily,” he explained.
Afi Ahmed, the managing director of Smart Travels, also confirmed there hadn’t been any cancellations to the UK as far as UAE passengers are concerned. “People are travelling, and there is a lot of inbound traffic from the UK as well,” Ahmed said. UK fares from UAE are priced at approximately Dh3,300, including taxes, for travel from December 23 to January 3.
“The ones who enjoy the snow and cold weather conditions choose to travel to the UK. However, families with small children are staying away from this route,” he added.
A few last-minute UAE holidaymakers, who are yet to travel to the UK for Christmas festivities, are opting to meet their loved ones at ‘mid-way’ destinations like Mauritius, Cyprus and Spain. Dubai residents have said that they changed plans over fears of delays caused by UK Border Force strikes over the holidays.
Kim Thompson, a Dubai resident, told Gulf News she plans to travel to Cyprus to meet with her daughter for the Christmas-New Year holidays.
“My daughter is flying out of the UK on December 30. She picked her holiday dates due to the Border Force, transport department, and railway staff strikes. Also, it was more cost-efficient for us to meet her in Cyprus instead of us going to the UK or bringing her to Dubai. The weather is another reason; Cyprus is relatively warmer than the UK.”