How to travel London to Dubai return for Dh1,312

Ben Flanagan was challenged to find the cheapest possible return fare from London to Dubai. At Dh1,312, he succeeded, but he lost out on time and travel perks.

Passengers board a flydubai flight. Low-cost airlines offer an alternative for UAE travellers.  Galen Clarke / The National
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We all know that the golden age of air travel is over – but rarely is this felt so acutely than on a 10-hour stopover … waiting for a Ryanair flight.

This is what happens when you choose to fly cheap – very cheap.

Having been challenged to find the lowest air fare between London to Dubai, I am now blessed with a more intimate knowledge of Prague airport – where the lengthy stopover occurred – than one would wish for.

Using low-cost airlines – or “airlines” as the Americans call them – to travel long-haul can certainly save you money. But the costs – in terms of time and lost travel perks – needs to be factored in.

Finding the cheapest London-to-Dubai fare involved lengthy searches, but I eventually discovered a route involving a Ryanair flight from London Stansted to Prague (priced at Dh303 return), then onwards to Dubai International Airport with flydubai (Dh1,009).

The total cost for the return flights, booked for mid-April, was a mere £242 (Dh1,312). That was 32 per cent cheaper than the best price for a direct flight, with Emirates, at £358. Turkish Airlines quoted £282 for a flight on the same dates – but that involved an impractical 20-hour stopover in Istanbul – with the next cheapest at £382. Virgin Atlantic, inexplicably, wanted £1,036.

While the Ryanair-flydubai combo was undeniably cheaper than other routes, it took its toll in other ways. The overall return travelling time was just shy of 31 hours – more than double that of direct flights.

When you travel cheap, you realise all the things you take for granted with full-service airlines. The Ryanair flight included no free food and drinks, but flydubai’s Prague service did, unexpectedly, include a simple meal and soft drinks.

Ryanair has no in-flight entertainment, other than the spectacle of passengers attempting to wrestle their baggage into cramped overhead lockers. The Irish carrier allows a cabin bag of up to 10kg, while with flydubai the limit is 7kg, with both charging fees to check in heavier bags. So the costs can mount if you don’t travel light.

Then there was the stopover – four hours on the way out, and a gruelling 10 on the return leg. Luckily, the free Wi-Fi at Prague airport was excellent; it is a good place to get some work done. But there were the inevitable refreshment breaks and buying of overpriced presents for the children – eating into the savings gained.

* Prices, fares and currency rates correct as of March 14, 2015