Thousands prepare for busy travel weekend ahead of Eid

Officials prepare for busiest weekend of the year and thousands head abroad as Eid and summer holiday breaks coincide.

ABU DHABI, DUBAI // For those suffering in the relentless heat and rising humidity, Eid and the school holidays came at just the right time, with tens of thousands heading to the airports for a summer break.

Friday is likely to be one of the busiest days of the year at Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports as families take flight for summer.

Ritesh Chauhan, 38, from the UK, was making final preparations before his flight home to see his family on Thursday afternoon.

“I’d booked it a while ago as I knew I was going to be in the UK to attend a friend’s wedding, so the fact it’s at the same time as the Eid holidays was a happy coincidence,” said the IT professional, who works in Dubai. “We booked in advance, so managed to get some good rates. We’ll combine this with our normal summer holidays, as usually we have stayed in the UAE for Eid.

“The main thing for us was that our two children will also be starting their summer holidays.”

For those who booked long ago the fares were probably manageable – less so for anyone booking a last-minute break.

Flights between Dubai and London Heathrow on Friday with Emirates airline, returning in three weeks’ time, were listed at Dh4,870.

And for a last-minute Eid getaway to Colombo in Sri Lanka – one of the most popular destinations – flights were almost Dh3,800.

Travel agents said the most popular destinations were Indian Ocean islands, including the Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius, with some going slightly farther afield to Bali. For August, Europe – as always – remains a popular destination, with other locations such as Georgia and Sri Lanka high on the list.

Helen Griffiths is going to spend the long weekend in the Seychelles, less than a five-hour flight away.

“It’s so close, and much closer than if we were living back home in Ireland,” she said.

“It’s weekends like this that we can make the most of these -destinations that aren’t too far away. We wouldn’t necessarily go if it was from Ireland, cost and time-wise.”

Passengers are being warned to arrive in plenty of time for flights, with Dubai International even incentivising passengers with discounts for those who arrive early.

Extra staff and facilities will be made available at the country’s major airports this weekend to allow for the summer exodus.

Dubai International Airport has extra staff on hand to manage an estimated 1.9 million travellers expected in the coming week. They expect the busiest period to be Friday, with more than 76,000 departing passengers.

The busiest day for all air traffic – departing, arriving and connecting – will be June 30, with more than 262,000 passengers expected.

“Because of the heavy passenger loads we want to remind passengers to give themselves a bit of extra time to get to and through the airport,” said Anita Mehra, senior vice president of communication at operator Dubai Airports.

It is a similar story at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Ahmed Al Shamsi, acting chief operations officer at Abu Dhabi, said: “We are coordinating with police, immigration and customs to ensure the airport has a sufficient number of employees to cater for the needs of the passenger numbers that have been forecast.”

The two peak periods are expected to run from now until July 15 for departing passengers, and from August 15 to September 10 for returning travellers.

The number of passengers is expected to increase by between 5 per cent and 8 per cent during the summer months compared with the same period last year, with about seven million travelling through UAE terminals.

Dubai resident Anthony Newland wasted no time in leaving for Canada as soon as his two children finished school on Thursday. He was due to fly early this morning.

“We always book to fly as soon is summer is out,” he said.

“It’s just too hot to keep them entertained here and they’re really ready to leave and get back to Canada where they can play outdoors.”