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Leading UAE airlines have been issuing alerts on peak traffic build up for the Eid holidays. This also sets up passenger numbers for peak summer travel demand over the coming weeks. Image Credit: Dubai Airports

Dubai: Starting this week, the full weight of high summer airfares will be felt by travellers from the UAE, whether it’s a short trip to a sought-after holiday destination or for a longer stay back to their home country.

The airfare spikes will prove particularly painful for those making last-minute travel plans, with ticket rates to from the UAE to the US having shot up by 100 per cent - and even by up to 300 per cent to the UK, India, Thailand, the Philippines, and major European cities.

“We are seeing a trend among UAE travellers combining their Eid break with the two-month summer holiday for extended vacations,” said Rikant Pittie, co-founder of EaseMyTrip.

Where are UAE residents flying to?

If it’s for short holiday breaks to beat the summer hear, then destinations like Thailand, Kenya, Turkey, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bali, and Mauritius are proving quite popular, with demand up by 20 per cent or so. Airfares to most of these destinations have risen considerably compared to April-May 2024 levels.

Never wait for a last minute booking

More UAE residents are getting ahead of the game by booking their tickets up to two- to four months earlier, shifting away from last-minute booking habits they picked up in the period just after Covid.

Those making last-minute travel plans choose connecting flights to short-, medium- and long-haul destinations to make their ticket spend come down further.

How ticket rates are faring on some high-demand sectors during June 15-30:

  • Dubai to London – Dh8,970 for direct/Dh3,243 for connecting;
  • Dubai to New Delhi – Dh2,200;
  • Dubai to New York – Dh5,620 for direct and Dh4,395 connecting;
  • Abu Dhabi to New York - Dh7,760 direct and Dh4,520 for connecting;
  • Dubai to Los Angeles – Dh7,560 for direct and Dh4,590 on connecting flights:
  • Dubai to Paris – Dh6,690 for direct/Dh2,920 for connecting; and
  • Dubai to Bangkok – Dh5,060 direct/Dh2,430 on connecting

Connecting flights - a respite for 300% hikes

Connecting flights to medium and long-haul destinations is the best solution for a 300 per cent airfare hike. For example, Economy class airfare from Dubai to London (from June 15 to 30) is priced at Dh8,970 on British Airways.

Flights to the United States East Coast have gone up by 90 per cent, and US West Coast flights are seeing a 100 per cent increase in fares compared to Q1-2024 rates.

“Those waiting to book their flights for the very last minute are opting to fly Wizz Air Abu Dhabi or flydubai for affordable fares,” said Afi Ahmed, Chairman of Smart Travels.

“Some are even waiting until the end of Eid Al Fitr and combining their trip with the summer school holidays. Since they have time, long-haul flyers don’t mind the 11-hour UK travel to 30-hour journeys to the US using connecting flights.”

Dubai to London flights average Dh3,240, with a layover in Prague (flydubai, Wizz Air) or in Riyadh (Saudia). Some even opt to fly out of Abu Dhabi, as fares from the capital city are 15-20 per cent cheaper (Etihad Airways).

Ahmed added, “Indian expats, for example, have booked their tickets to holiday destinations like Thailand and planned their return to their hometown in India. After which, they return to Dubai in mid-July or early August.”

Families, especially those with school-going children, have booked their tickets well in advance.

According to Mamoun Hmedan, Chief Business Officer, Wego, “We have observed a jump in summer airfares to almost all these destinations compared to the same period early this year. “Average flight prices are now 42.72 per cent more expensive for flights to Egypt, up 64.08 per cent to Jordan, and up 32.10 per cent to India compared to the last quarter.”

Wego’s data from last year’s summer holiday season highlights the broader booking trends. Up to 18 per cent of MENA travellers booked as early as one- to two months before their travel date. This contrasts with the 22 percent who chose to book closer to their departure dates.

“In most instances, airfares surpass inflation rates,” said Pluto Travels’ Sapna Aidasani. “Travellers are more price-conscious than ever, avoiding last-minute bookings, particularly for long-haul trips. They prefer allocating their budgets towards destination indulgences like luxury accommodations and bespoke travel experiences.”

Aircraft constraints

In 2022, Middle East airlines faced peak travel disruptions while rehiring staff and adjusting infrastructure for an unexpected post-pandemic demand surge. By 2023, pilot and plane shortages persisted, fares remained high, and airlines struggled with delays and cancellations due to air traffic control issues and bad weather.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) raised its 2024 passenger traffic growth forecast to 12 per cent globally and 7 per cent in the Middle East, signalling growing demand. UAE and regional carriers - including Emirates, Etihad Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Turkish Airlines - have expanded networks to manage resurgent demand and reduce airport congestion.

Yet, the shortage of aircraft continues to cause supply constraints, according to airline chiefs. Weighed down by aircraft shortages and strikes, Germany’s Lufthansa Group saw losses in its Q1-24 performance. However, the airline expects to pick up pace in summer and post-summer thanks to connecting travel trends.

Serkan Guerguen, Senior Director of Sales Middle-East, North Africa, and Turkey at Lufthansa Group, said, “The first quarter was tough for us, and we aim for stable operations amid the summer. We will increase our summer capacity in Berlin, Frankfurt and Zurich.

“We also plan on increasing our capacities to Berlin (daily operations). We have high connecting traffic to Europe and the US and have bolstered our operations to serve connecting passengers because of our strategically placed hubs.”

Most popular destinations

On the group travel front, travel agents have introduced special holiday packages across regions like Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Singapore.

Emerging destinations like Latvia, Slovenia, and Eastern Europe add a dash of novelty to the mix.

“Where most are travelling to the popular Schengen countries, 20-25 per cent are excited about exploring the newer territories gaining popularity,” said’s COO Raheesh Babu.

This is more so because appointment slots to popular Schengen nations are still notoriously hard to get, he explained.

The UK, Germany, and Italy top Wego’s list of European summer destinations for MENA travellers. The UK’s enduring popularity, especially, may be attributed to the new ETA system that allows GCC citizens to travel to the UK hassle-free, said Wego’s Hmedan.