Dubai: The UK has re-emerged as a top summer destination for travelers from the UAE, with Heathrow seemingly better placed to handle the higher traffic after the chaos of last year.
And the best part for UAE travelers? Airfares to the UK are yet to see any sudden spikes from the demand.
Ticket rates from the UAE to major airports in the UK are in a quite affordable range of Dh2,975 (Dubai-to-UK on British Airways) to Dh4,755 (Dubai-to-Manchester on Emirates) during travel from July 21 to 25. British Airways operates thrice daily flights to and from Dubai at Dh1,750 and above.
Things get better for travelers planning possible trips to London.
The lengthy visa appointment delay that plagued last summer's travel plans is now down to 15 days, against the seven-month waiting period passengers had to endure in the summer of ‘22.
Last year, Heathrow put daily caps on passengers flying out from the UK’s busiest airport because of staff shortages and for sundry other reasons.
Travel agents have declared the UK a 'hot' destination for UAE residents, which includes demand from business travelers. Most flights from the UAE to UK are operating at maximum capacities as well, according to travel agents and airlines.
The Managing Director of Travel Connections Arabia Ahmed Soliman said, "We also see repeat visits as the UK remains a popular choice for UAE and GCC travelers. Moreover, with the vast number of flights available to London in particular, it has allowed for a level of consistency with fair ticket prices."
GCC airlines too add to operations
Gulf carriers have rapidly scaled up their network operations to the UK, most noticeably to Birmingham. Following a three-year hiatus, last week Emirates resumed its twice-daily A380 service to that city.
Dubai's flag carrier also operates daily flights to London Heathrow, Gatwick, Newcastle upon Tyne, and Stansted. Etihad Airways operates five daily flights to London, with Economy class fares starting Dh1,380, and one direct daily service to Manchester for Dh1,660. It also operates direct flights to Preston.
Qatar Airways returned to Birmingham on July 6 with daily flights to Doha, and Saudia has launched a thrice-daily service from Birmingham to Jeddah.
Airports have also boosted their capacities since last month to meet the demand for summer travel. According to OAG, the busiest airport for international flights in June 2023 was Dubai International. With 4.6 million seats, the airport has 17 per cent more international capacity than the next busiest international airport, Heathrow with its 4 million seats.
Seats-per-day at DXB have increased by 2 per cent compared to last month, and London Heathrow (LHR) has risen by 1 per cent. Security staff have called off strikes at London Heathrow, and airport authorities look forward to delivering an 'excellent summer' for travel.
Cut down on visa wait times
One of the most encouraging factors for travel is the reduced wait times for UK visas for UAE residents.
Monaz Billimoria, Deputy Regional Head, UAE – VFS Global, said, "With visa processing timelines reverting to the standard 15 days for visitor visas, applications numbers have surpassed the volumes witnessed in 2022, recording 34 per cent as of May 2023 over May 2022.”
According to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), 3.05 million visas were granted in March, 90 per cent higher (than the year ending March 2022. "This was primarily due to 944,957 (+155 per cent) more grants of visitor visas," said UKVI.
As for leisure travel, UAE residents are planning week-long trips to the British countryside in a big way. Sapna Aidasani, Marketing Director at Pluto Travels, said: "They are travelling to Scotland, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen. Moreover, many parents are planning travels to drop their kids to school/college in the UK. They are combining it with leisure travels as well."