Dubai: Europe’s searing heat wave isn’t the only factor affecting travel from the UAE – just trying to get a Schengen visa could now take as long as three months, forcing holidaymakers to head for other destinations.
“Earlier we would see clear peaks and troughs when it came to summer and the holiday seasons, but now people are willing to travel almost throughout the year,” said Monaz Billimoria, Deputy Regional Head - UAE, VFS Global, the visa processing consultancy. “There could be some countries that are so fully booked up that you could get an appointment (for a visa) as late as September.”
That’s right, getting a Schengen visa in the UAE can take anywhere from three weeks to three months depending on the country.
Bring forward appointments
Travellers can avoid last-minute delays by booking way in advance. “Schengen countries allow you to make an application up to six months in advance, so while you're in peak season it's always advisable to book appointments well in advance,” said Billimoria.
UK situation adds to delays
The UK, a major market for UAE airlines, is also taking longer to process new visa requests. Earlier, those UAE travellers put off by delays with Schengen visas looked to UK trips as the best option. “The UK generally has a standard processing timeline of 15 days, but now they take somewhere close to six weeks,” said Billimoria. "We have been constantly working to return to the standard timeline of three weeks."
Visa appointments are not the only issues faced by passengers when flying to UK. Some of the country’s biggest airports are experiencing flight cancellations and prompted London Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest, to impose caps on flight capacity. “Sometimes, these scenarios aren't really as bad as they are made out to be,” said Billimoria. “I'm not really hearing about people changing their itineraries or destinations simply based on this.”
Due to the restrictions on ticket sales, flights from London to Dubai have been running full. Most flight options available involve multiple stops in destinations such as Tel Aviv and Amman.
Emirates, which originally rejected Heathrow's demand for airlines to make capacity cuts at short notice, later agreed. “Emirates has capped further sales on its flights out of Heathrow until mid-August to assist Heathrow in its resource ramp up, and is working to adjust capacity,” said the airline in a statement.
Flights from Dubai to London cost around Dh2,000-Dh2,500 right now, while the return trip will cost more than Dh3,000.
Demand for travel to Riyadh and Jeddah has been on the rise with the Kingdom emerging as a second base for more multinationals operating in the region.
As far as Asia is concerned, Singapore is a destination of interest for many UAE residents, said the VFS executive. “We do passport renewal for Filipino expats, and I see many of them traveling back home.
“The big change will come when China opens, it will be a game changer for the Asia market. But, almost all of the travel from UAE right now is West-bound to destinations like Europe, Turkey, Canada and the UK.”