Stock - UK Airport
Dubai and the UAE will be the default setting for UK’s holidaymakers come December. More flights being added to the route will help. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai: With travel restrictions rolled back, UK residents are starting to sign up for an end-of-year holiday break in Dubai, setting a bumper phase for the airline and hotel sectors. But for now, it’s the corporate traveller from the UK who is starting to show up in the UAE.

Apart from the Expo, the Dubai Air Show and the ADIPEC energy conference in Abu Dhabi will drive a lot of incoming traffic from the UK.

Bookings are on the climb

Since the removal of the UAE from its red list, flight tickets issued from the UK to the UAE climbed almost instantly from 8.6 per cent to 87.2 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels. “The UK’s new simplified travel system will continue to drive this surge in demand in the lead up to the festive season and sunny winter breaks in the UAE,” said Linus Benjamin Bauer, Managing Director of Bauer Aviation Advisory.

Rates hold steady

A flight from Dubai to London costs between Dh1,000 to Dh2,000. A flight to Manchester – the UK’s second largest city in terms of population – is now at around Dh1,700. Fares for London to Dubai are even higher, with airlines charging Dh2,250 on some days.

More flights the answer

UAE airlines are ramping up services to the UK to meet surging demand. The UK sector is more lucrative for these carriers, with a large chunk of passengers opting for Business Class or Premium-Economy.

Emirates will restart flights to London Gatwick Airport (LGW) from December 10 in response to the easing of international travel restrictions and an upsurge in passenger demand. The carrier will resume services to its second London gateway with a daily flight operated on a Boeing 777 aircraft.

The Dubai airline plans to have up to 84 weekly flights to the UK by end December, in good time for the peak season. “Since the UAE was moved to the UK’s ‘amber list’, we’ve seen a huge surge in demand and Emirates quickly resumed operations across the UK,” said Tim Clark, Emirates’ President, in a statement to Gulf News last month.

London Heathrow is the fifth busiest route from Dubai with 59 flights per week, right behind Delhi and Jeddah. London is the second-busiest route from Abu Dhabi with 21 flights per week, according to Flightradar 24.

New system

UK’s new travel system came into force on October 4 with countries and territories categorised as either red or the rest of the world.

The new system also means that eligible fully-vaccinated passengers and eligible under-18s returning from over 50 countries and territories not on the red list can do so without needing to complete a pre-departure test (PDT), a Day 8 test or enter a 10-day self-isolation period. This makes it easier for those travelling – whether that’s to see friends and family, or on business trips.

Eligible fully-vaccinated passengers with an approved vaccine and recognised certificate from a country not on the red list will be able to replace their Day 2 test with a cheaper lateral flow test, reducing the cost of tests on arrival into England. The government aims to have this in place for when people return from half-term breaks.

Stock London Heathrow Airport UK Britain passengers
For now, airline rates between UK and UAE are more or less running steady.

Demand on the UAE-UK route is climbing quickly after travel curbs were further eased earlier this month. Business travel has also taken off as Dubai and Abu Dhabi get ready to host a spate of events this winter.

If that wasn’t enough, UK tourists are expected to return to UAE’s shores in full force this year.

“Bookings have spiked since October 4 (when quarantine restrictions were lifted), but it is more business related,” said a spokesperson for Al Badie Travel Agency. “Earlier, it was quite difficult, passengers had to undergo 2-3 tests and then self-isolate for seven days”

“With the exception of India and Sri Lanka, most of the east Asian markets are still closed – since these tourists have very limited options, it may actually end up working out in UAE’s favor,” he added.

Anyone testing positive will need to isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test, at no additional cost, which would be genomically sequenced to help identify new variants.

All under-11s, regardless of where they are travelling from, are already exempt from pre-departure testing for arrival in the UK. If children aged 11 and over are not travelling from one of the 50-plus countries and territories where vaccines are recognised, they will be required to follow the same rules as for unvaccinated passengers.