Dubai: Travelling to the UK for the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays?
Britons in the UAE and other expatriates with plans to travel to the UK between December 16 and 31 are concerned their travel plans could be nixed in case ticket caps or cancellations were introduced between these destinations. Their concerns were magnified after carriers British Airways and Virgin Atlantic limited ticket sales to Heathrow caused by the planned Border Agency strikes over the winter holidays. Maxmillian Buerger, the Managing Director of Market Intelligence Platform and Advisory Company AFM.aero, told Gulf News: “Staff shortages will certainly impact operational capacity at many airports worldwide. The strikes will enhance these staff shortages.”
However, those who have already booked their tickets with UAE carriers well in advance have nothing to worry about, travel agents with operations in this sector have said. Several travel agents Gulf News reached out to have said no circulars or notifications informing them of a cap in ticket sales or flight cancellations were issued by two of UAE’s most prominent carriers, Emirates or Etihad.
Gulf News has reached out to the airlines; a response is awaited. Also, British Airways is yet to provide local travel agents with clarity on the status of tickets that have already been booked during this period, said travel agents. “No official communication has come forward from British Airways about the cap in ticket sales. It is unclear if travellers who have already purchased tickets would have to reschedule their travel plans either,” said a travel agent.
‘Middle East carriers may not face an impact’
Raheesh Babu, the COO of online travel platform Musafair.com, expects Middle East carriers to not be impacted much by the strikes. “We haven’t had any seat limitations to London, and we have not received any notifications from local carriers either. All operations will continue as scheduled,” he said.
While British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have announced a limit on ticket sales, Dubai to UK operations have ramped up for the upcoming holiday season starting December 16.
Earlier this month, Emirates introduced a third daily A380 flight to London Gatwick airport, taking the total to three double-decker flights per day between Dubai and Gatwick. This results in more than 1,000 seats between the destinations during the peak festive period.
Flights depart Dubai for London Gatwick at 2.50 am, 7.40 am and 2.25 pm as part of plans to scale up UK operations to meet sustained demand ahead of the holiday rush, said Emirates earlier in December.
Moreover, in an earlier interview with Gulf News, UAE’s most prominent travel agency dnata Travels said passenger demand to the UK from the UAE has increased by 90 per cent compared to winter 2021.
Hemali Shah, Managing Director of City One Tourism, added: “Airfares to this destination are very high at the moment. For a one-week trip to the UK for passengers flying to Gatwick on Emirates (December 28- January 7), ticket prices average at Dh4,100. While travel interest is very high, high airfares deter average customers from travelling.”
Babu confirmed there is robust demand from corporates as well as leisure travellers for trips to the UK. “Despite the UK opening up after COVID-19, the frequencies to this destination are yet to hit pre-pandemic capacities. That being said, there is year-round demand for this sector, especially from business travellers,” said Babu.