Stock Dubai airport 2021
For Dubai International, it's about winning back the passenger numbers in a phased manner. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Even in the midst of this pandemic, passengers continue to fly out from the UAE to destinations... that are still open to flights

For Dubai Airports, which released its 2020 traffic data this week, and it comes as no surprise that India retained its position as the top destination by passenger numbers, totalling 4.3 million in 2020.

This was followed by the UK with 1.89 million fliers, and Pakistan coming in third with 1.86 million. Other destinations of note included Saudi Arabia with 1.45 million. Among cities, the Top 3 places were London (1.15 million), Mumbai (772,000) and New Delhi (722,000).

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There are now 142 destinations served from Dubai International in 80 markets through 56 airlines. “There was some growth through the government alliances being made in the latter part of the year (2020), allowing flights to and from Israel,” said Dubai Airports in its statement.

Tourism boosters

Flight traffic is getting a lift from tourism as well. Airlines have been increasing the frequency of flights to Maldives, which has emerged as a pandemic-time favorite for UAE residents. “We are seeing growing demand on flights to the Maldives where we continue to increase frequency for those passengers looking for sunshine, beaches and tranquility,” a flydubai spokesperson told Gulf News.

The budget carrier’s flights to destinations such as Almaty, Bucharest, Entebbe, and Kiev are also popular, the airline said. Flydubai, which is launching routes to Malta and Salzburg (Austria) in May, said customers were already booking seats on those flights.

Tourism will recover in the second-half of 2021 as coronavirus vaccines are rolled out and travel restrictions are eased, although the return to pre-pandemic levels will likely be slow, said Emirates NBD Research.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) had previously said that bookings for future travel was still down 70 per cent year-on-year in January, 2021.