Dubai in top spot for UK travellers on 'Flyaway Friday'

About 250,000 travellers set to take flights from London's Heathrow Airport on December 22

Passengers queue at London's Heathrow Airport Terminal 3 earlier this month. Record numbers are set to take to the skies on 'Flyaway Friday'. Bloomberg
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London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports are set to have their busiest day of the Christmas holiday period on “Flyaway Friday”, with Dubai the most popular long-haul destination.

December 22 follows the end of the school term and the beginning of the Christmas holiday period.

Gatwick said its favourites are Geneva as the top short-haul destination and Dubai as the preferred choice for long-haul journeys.

Heathrow is set to see 689 flights departing on December 22. The airport anticipates a bustling December, with an expected 6.5 million passengers during the month.

The anticipated influx of travellers signals a return to the levels of air travel last seen before the pandemic.

Heathrow is expected to reach a peak akin to its busiest summer days – handling almost 250,000 passengers on Flyaway Friday.

The airport said the most popular destinations include Dubai and New York JFK.

Despite the anticipated rush, airports like Heathrow have prepared extensively.

A Heathrow official told The National they had special measures in place to cope with the number, including a special plan to accommodate younger guests.

“Sometimes we see children riding on suitcases which is a high risk and not allowed, so we do everything we can to make sure that the journey is smooth for the families and the kids as well,” said the official.

“We've got lots of activities in the airport, including arts and crafts, a polar bear which is controlled by robotics, as well as Santa and his elves.

“They will try to take the stress out of travelling especially for parents. Sometimes it can be stressful getting away over the Christmas period to see family abroad.”

Holiday travellers emerge from pandemic shadows

Outbound flight numbers for this period show a 6 per cent increase from 2022 and a 291 per cent rise from 2021.

This sharp rise reflects a continued recovery and growth in air travel post-pandemic.

Across English schools' summer half-term period – May 27 to June 4 – there are a scheduled 25,606 flight departures from UK airports, illustrating the sector's recovery.

Updated: December 20, 2023, 2:47 PM