Soaring ticket prices during peak season for air travel from the UAE are forcing families to rethink their travel plans.
Eid Al Adha holidays next week, followed by the summer rush of families travelling to their home countries or cooler climes, have seen an increase in airfares to many popular destinations.
The end of the school holidays sees a yearly surge in summer travel. However, finding affordable flights to their desired destinations is becoming increasingly difficult, many expat families have said.
Many have said they are opting for budget airlines, taking longer, connecting flights, or even exploring alternative, less expensive travel destinations to circumvent the burden of exorbitant ticket costs.
Italian couple Marilene Lusci and her husband Paolo Lusci, both oil and gas professionals in Abu Dhabi, said they swapped the luxury of premium airlines with frill-free travel to avoid paying high prices for their summer holiday.
“A return ticket from Abu Dhabi to Rome costs Dh5,500. So, for a family like ours, the ticket price alone would come to Dh27,500, which is a lot,” said Ms Lusci, who has three children aged 13, 11 and 9.
“We managed to buy tickets on Wizzair for just Dh1300. We made a massive saving by flying a low-cost airline,” she said.
The couple travels twice a year, during summer and Christmas.
“That is the only time when we can travel when schools close for holidays. So, it is not practical for us to book flights during off-peak season,” said Ms Lusci.
Taking longer routes
Another Abu Dhabi-based expat, and a mother of three, said her family decided to take a circuitous trip to Cairo in August, via Portugal and London, due to the high price of the direct flight.
“We are travelling from Dubai to Portugal on a budget airline that costs around Dh1,500 per person. And from Portugal, we are flying to London for Dh500 on another budget airline. After a few days in London, we will fly to Cairo and spend our summer holiday,” said the mother, who did not want to be named.
The family booked their London-Cairo flight for Dh2,000 per person with a promotional offer in January.
“Tickets for a return flight from Abu Dhabi-Cairo would have cost my family around Dh20,000. We are still paying a lot but at least we feel it is better value for money as we get to see London and Portugal.”
She said they will wait for a last-minute price drop at the end of August to book their return tickets from Cairo to Abu Dhabi.
“It is a big drain on pockets for families that wait for a year to go home,” the mother said.
Steep rise for India flights
Ticket prices have also risen on flights to London and India, two destinations that typically see huge summer rush.
Advait Arya, a student at the University of Warwick in Coventry, told The National he was shocked at the difference in the ticket price for a Dubai-London flight compared to previous prices.
“I came back to the UAE from the UK for summer break. I was looking to go back to London next month and was absolutely stunned by the ticket [price].
“Normally, I booked tickets at a price of Dh2,600 to Dh2,700 but now I can't seem to find anything cheaper than Dh3,600 and the ones I do are very inconvenient with many layovers. I have booked the ticket nonetheless.”
Shaheeda Abul Khader, an Indian expat, said she forked out Dh2,220 for a one-way ticket from Dubai to Bangalore for her summer travel.
“In the 2000s, we used to go to Bangalore round trip on first class or business for the same amount,” said Ms Khader, a long-time UAE resident.
Afi Ahmed, chief executive and founder of Smart Travel, said ticket prices to some Indian states like Kerala, which has the largest number of UAE expats, have increased up to ten times.
“The off-season rates from Dubai to Kochi are between Dh300 to Dh500 (one way), depending on the airline you are travelling. During the Eid holidays and also at the beginning of summer holidays, the same tickets would cost up to Dh3,000 and even Dh3,500.”
Kiran Kannan, an Indian expat with two kids, said he managed to beat the prices because he booked his ticket to Kochi in January.
“I paid Dh746 per person, which now costs more than Dh2,000 now,” said Mr Kannan, whose return flight is around Dh850.
A return ticket on Air Arabia's Abu Dhabi-Kochi flight on June 28 currently costs Dh3,500. Flights to Mumbai on the same dates costs anything between Dh2,830 to Dh3,500.
“We anticipated the price increase as it happens every year and planned our leave days accordingly,” he said.
During the week-long Eid Al Adha holidays starting June 26, families looking for a quick holiday also face higher-than-normal ticket prices.
Emirati businessman, Omar Al Busaidy, said he was shocked to see prices from Dubai to Muscat more than double during the Eid holidays.
“I paid Dh2,700 on a Flydubai flight to Muscat. Usually, the ticket would have cost me less than Dh1000,” said Mr Busaidy.