Ticket prices for flights from India and Pakistan to the UAE have surged as residents rush to return following the UAE's easing of restrictions.
Economy seats have been completely booked on some flights, according to agents and airline booking sites.
In many cases, passengers are only able to book business class tickets, often priced at six to seven times the price of an economy class fare.
A one-way ticket from Mumbai on an Emirates flight, which usually costs about Dh1,000 ($272), has risen to Dh2,700.
The lowest price for a ticket from Kochi to Dubai with Emirates on August 12 is Dh5,546, as only seats in business and first class were available, according to the airline's website. The economy section is completely booked.
Fly Dubai has tickets from Karachi to Dubai priced at Dh1,030 on August 12. The ticket usually costs around Dh600.
Thousands of residents are trying to get home after the easing of rules in place since April because of surging Covid-19 cases in India.
About 300 flights a week were operating between the UAE and India before the ban was announced.
Now there are about 40 to 50 flights from all the cities in India to Dubai. Prices vary between airlines and routes, and agents have asked those stranded to be patient.
Godly Babukutty, owner of Epic Travel in Dubai, had booked tickets for at least a dozen Indian residents who had travelled from Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi to Dubai on Thursday.
He is expecting to help more than 100 people return to the Emirates in the next week.
“People are willing to pay these prices as they have to be back here for schools and jobs,” said Mr Babukutty.
“It’s almost five times the price but people are willing to pay as they are desperate to return.
“We are advising all our passengers to wait for five to 10 days if possible and then travel as the ticket prices are very high now.
Mr Babukutty said he booked a ticket for a client for Dh881 one day ago and the same ticket costs Dh3,500 at present.
“We are seeing that the economy sections on some flights are getting booked and only business class tickets are available,” he said.
“Some passengers are willing to take domestic flights from one city to another in India and then travel to the UAE, but even those tickets are expensive at present."
Many families are desperate to return before the start of the school term on August 29.
“The internet connectivity is not great in India so people who had children needed to return as it would be difficult for pupils to do online schooling if they were in India,” he said.
Epic Travel had been running quarantine packages where people could spend 15 nights in Armenia or Qatar and then travel to the UAE on the 16th day.
It also planned on running a quarantine package especially for school teachers ahead of schools reopening.
Thousands of residents from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal are expected to fly back to the Emirates after months of being stranded abroad due to flight bans imposed by the UAE.
Etihad opens bookings for flights from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh
Etihad Airways is also ramping up services to meet demand. The airline on Friday said from August 7 to 9 it will operate services from Chennai, Kochi, Bengaluru, Trivandrum and New Delhi.
From August 10, flights will be added from Ahmedabad (for transit only), Hyderabad and Mumbai in India, and Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad in Pakistan. Etihad will also operate flights from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Passengers returning to the UAE need to have a valid residency and proof of having received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine in the UAE no less than 14 days before travel.
Unvaccinated residents can return if they are school pupils, teachers, university students, lecturers, medical workers, or people who work for federal and local government.