UAE to UK Christmas flights: When is the best time to book affordable deals?

As searches rise and some airfares double, December 11 appears to be the most expensive day to jet to the UK

Average flight prices to the UK from the UAE have increased 112 per cent since the air corridor announcement. Courtesy London Luton Airport
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Since Britain added the UAE to its air travel corridor list, search traffic and airfares for flights between the two destinations have risen.

Travellers flying to the UK from the UAE no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. This has led to an increase in airfares between Dubai and London, and vice versa, according to travel metasearch engine Wego.

"The United Kingdom's decision to exempt travellers from the UAE from quarantine is a very significant step that will stimulate tourism between the two countries, especially because the UK is one of the most prominent destinations for UAE travellers," says Mamoun Hmedan, managing director for Mena and India at Wego.

Dubai to London flight searches up 92 per cent

Five days after the air corridor was announced, search traffic on flights from Dubai to London was up 92 per cent, Wego said.

Travel aggregator Skyscanner echoes this trend, reporting a 51 per cent rise in interest for flights from Dubai to the UK on searches made between November 12 and November 16.

People living in England hoping to take advantage of Dubai's winter sun and no quarantine rules cannot do so until after December 2. That is because the country is in lockdown with non-essential travel restricted. Different rules apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These restrictions, however, have not stopped people from searching for flights to the Emirates.

Searches for flights between Dubai and London increased after the UK government's air travel announcement. Unsplash

Wego recorded a 32 per cent increase in searches for flights from London to the UAE since the air corridor was announced. Skyscanner also reported an increase in traffic, with flight searches up 60 per cent for travel from the UK capital to Dubai.

To other regional UK destinations, Wego recorded a small increase in search traffic. "Flight searches to Glasgow and Manchester have slightly increased, however the numbers are still shy compared to those of London," Hmedan says.

Average airfares up 100 per cent

According to Wego, average airfares from the UAE to London have risen from $927 (Dh3,404) before the announcement, to an average of $1,971 (Dh7,238) on November 16.

"That's an increase of 112 per cent, whereas the airfare from London to the UAE increased by 124 per cent, from $422 to $944," Hmedan adds.

While these fares seem high, it is because they are based on the average fare on all days and across all classes of travel in December.

It is also worth noting that before the air corridor announcement, a lack of demand because of the global pandemic had pushed average airfares below what is typical for this time of year.

In fact, according to Skyscanner, airfares for economy tickets remain lower than normal.

"While we're seeing an increase in the past week in search volumes for travellers looking for flights from and to the UAE, fares are currently following seasonal trends and prices for flights departing in December don't reflect the rise in interest," says Hugh Aitken, vice president of flights at Skyscanner.

"For example, return economy flights from Dubai to London are currently starting from £413 [$547] [at the time of writing] in December, 20 per cent cheaper for the same route at that time of year."

What's the cheapest day to fly?

This means that UAE residents hoping to fly home for Christmas could still find bargain flights.

A quick search on Skyscanner shows direct one-way fares from Dubai to London cost from Dh1,126 with Emirates. To Manchester, fares with the Dubai airline start from Dh2,065 and to Glasgow from Dh2,217.

UAE residents hoping to fly to the UK for Christmas could still find bargain flights. Unsplash

Google Flights has similar fare options on economy fares to London from Dubai with British Airways fares starting from Dh1,160, one-way.

These fares are available on several dates throughout early and mid-December, avoiding Fridays. Prices tend to rise slightly again in the few days before Christmas.

"Skyscanner's search engine shows travellers the best available prices by clearly highlighting the cheapest day and options for travellers. Prices are very dynamic at the moment, so we recommend checking Skyscanner for the latest deals and signing up for price alerts to be the first to know when your preferred destinations have price drops or airlines have sales and good bargains to get," Aitken says.

What's the most expensive day to fly?

The most expensive day to fly direct from Dubai to the UK ahead of Christmas is Friday, December 11.

Flight prices on Skyscanner and Google Flights are about 50 per cent more expensive on that date compared with the cheapest fares. This is most likely because the majority of schools in the UAE will close for winter on Thursday, December 10.

The most expensive day to book flights from Dubai to London is Friday, December 11. Unsplash

Travellers who do plan to fly on that date can find cheaper fares by searching for flights that include stopovers. Turkish Airlines has one-way fares to London from Dubai for about Dh900 on December 11, while Pegasus Airlines offers airfare from Abu Dhabi to London for under Dh1,000. Both of these routes mean a stopover in Istanbul.

Other low fares that include stopovers are available via Wizz Air, KLM and Royal Jordanian, but travellers should check that they are eligible for transit in each country before booking.

When should I book flights?

According to Skyscanner’s historical data, the cheapest time to book flights between the UAE and the UK is 22 weeks ahead of travel. Because there are only five weeks left until Christmas, this golden period has passed.

From today, the best time to book flights is this week. Booking three or four weeks out is usually only 2 per cent more expensive than average prices, while booking two weeks out is 6 per cent pricier.

Travellers should book flights this week to lock in the best prices, according to Skyscanner's historical data. Unsplash

Leaving it to the week before you fly can cost you 9 per cent more and booking a last-minute flight in the same week that you travel is often 20 per cent more expensive.

"It is common to see flight prices rise for very last-minute flights, which is to say flights that are booked within less than a week of departure," Aitken confirms.

Most of this data is based on non-Covid years, so the pattern may not follow suit in 2020.

Are there any additional costs when flying this year?

Travellers flying to the UK from the UAE must complete a passenger locator form. This should be submitted no more than 48 hours prior to departure and travellers who do not do this could face fines.

When it comes to Covid-19 test costs, flying to the UK from Dubai does not require a negative test unless the airline you are flying with asks for it.

Etihad includes the cost of a Covid-19 test in its airfare for all flights departing Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Etihad

Tourists, UAE citizens and residents flying into Dubai from the UK have the option to present a negative Covid-19 test result before departure, or take one upon arrival at Dubai International Airport. There is no fee for the on-arrival test.

Passengers on Etihad Airways flights must have a Covid-19 test before boarding. For flights departing Abu Dhabi, the cost of the test is included in the airfare. However, travellers will need to pay for a test in the UK before their return flight. All travellers flying into Abu Dhabi must show a negative Covid-19 test result.

Emirates and Etihad offer Covid-19 insurance for passengers, although other airlines may not. Travellers may have to buy Covid-19 insurance or factor in additional costs should they catch the virus when travelling.