December airfares into Dubai and UAE were already at a high - but the final week's rates are hitting record highs. Last-minute travel plans will come at a definite premium. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Flying into the UAE for an action-packed last week of 2023 from the UK – or for that matter from anywhere in the world – is hitting record highs.

Not surprising given that inward demand to the UAE has been running close to its peak for much of December and is now heading for an unprecedented high for the days from Christmas through to the New Year.

"The current fares represent the highest for UAE-bound flights this year, with rates at least 10-15 per cent higher than ticket prices in 2019 (the year before the Covid disruption)," said Mehar Sawlani, Director of Sales at Richmond Gulf Tourism.

How much do UK-Dubai tickets cost?

For example, a one-way Economy fare from London Heathrow to Dubai is at Dh5,313 from December 22. That’s in contrast to Dh4,755 on average for return airfares on the same route during this year’s peak summer travel.

One-way London-Dubai airfares in 2019 averaged Dh3,700 to Dh4,000.

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Wasim Ansari, Managing Director of Travel Square Tourism, said, "For many travelers, the current fares make it very expensive for any last minute trip plans.”

Dubai recorded 954,000 visitors from the UK between January to October, marking it the second-largest source market for the city. Overall, Dubai had 13.9 million overnight visitors during the period, with the highest number sourced from India, at 2 million.

It’s sky-high demand

That some mark ups will be there on ticket rates during this period is a given. What’s been surprising is that the fare climb started from mid-November and kept pushing higher through early December onwards. Obviously, the COP28 event in Dubai represented a major pull for ticket rates.

Fares from various destinations to UAE airports have surged across the board, rendering last-minute plans nearly impossible for travelers on a budget.

One-way Economy fares from India, Dubai's largest source market, have seen a significant spike, making it more economical to opt for connecting flights to the emirate. Fares from Mumbai to Dubai stand at Dh1,230, while Delhi to Sharjah fares are Dh1,051. Bengaluru to Dubai flights are priced Dh1,420 - typically, travelers pay these amounts for round-trip journeys.

"We are seeing record interest from India this year because Dubai is set to host the 28th ‘International Sindhi Sammelan’,” said Mehar. “This is the first time the event is being hosted in Dubai, which has led to sky-high demand."

Business has been exceptional for travel agents and destination management companies following the COP28. “The inbound travel demand during COP28 was immediately followed by the China Homelife trade fair,” said Mehar. “Many who came to the UAE to attend these events opted to stay back and bring their families too.”

Demand from US 

The US has become another major source market for Dubai tourism. "A lot of American artists are having concerts here, and there is a lot of interest on social media as well," Mehar said.

A one-way ticket from New York to Dubai is priced at Dh4,685, and from San Francisco are priced at Dh4,946. The prices taper down to Dh3,271 post-Christmas.

Ansari said: "We also see a lot of inbound traffic from Eastern European and Mediterranean nations." Fares from these destinations range from Dh2,099 (Budapest) to Dh1,740 (Krakow).

Why are fares so high?

Gabriel Debach, a Market Analyst at eToro, said, "Airfare costs rose by 50-60 per cent compared to the start of the school holidays (earlier this month).

"Apart from high demand, there is reduced capacity compared to pre-pandemic times and the general rise in airline costs."

According to some destination management companies, fares are expected to stay high until mid-January 2024. Rashid Abbas, Managing Director of Arooha Travels, said, "There is usually a drop in fares after mid-January. This also depends on the number of exhibitions and business events."