British Airways has cancelled nearly a dozen flights on its popular Abu Dhabi to London direct service at the start of Ramadan.
The cancellations begin next week and continue through the first week of June.
The airline’s website tells passengers: “Sorry, there are no direct flights for this route” on selected dates that begin on May 16 and currently end on June 6.
British Airways offers an alternative with a stopover in Bahrain, but this will cost nearly three times as much for the outward flight alone.
According to the website, BA's non-stop flight to London, which is available on June 5, but not between June 2-4, is priced at Dh1,238 in economy class for the Heathrow leg.
On June 6, and the other dates when direct flights are suspended, this soars to around Dh7,000 with a connection through Bahrain. They include six dates in May.
A BA booking agent in Abu Dhabi could say only that the flights had been cancelled for "operational reasons."
BA direct flights from Dubai are not affected.
“We remain committed to our daily flights to Abu Dhabi," a spokesman for the airline said. "We have made some minor schedule reductions in May and June to match customer demand and we're contacting any customers who have already booked on these services to rebook them onto alternative flights or to offer a full refund.”
British Airways has largely been operating the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the Abu Dhabi route and has 26 of the aircraft in its fleet.
The 787 has experienced turbine corrosion problems with the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines used by a number of airlines. The US Federal Aviation Authority last week warned operators to stay within one hour of an airport.
This week it was reported that BA was looking to lease three aircraft from struggling Qatar Airways to cover gaps caused by maintenance to the Dreamliner. Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, British Airways' parent company, had warned that "a number" of Dreamliners would be unavailable during May, June and July.
Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at Strategic Aero Research, said the move would be a temporary one, and that the Abu Dhabi route is one of its most profitable.
The airline was almost certainly using a quieter period during Ramadan to carry out essential maintenance on its Dreamliners and minimise disruption.
"I'd be more concerned if they weren't implementing a maintenance plan," he said.
BA's website now offers a connecting flight using Etihad from Abu Dhabi to Bahrain as an alternative, and then puts passengers on the airline’s regular service from Manama to Heathrow.
Anyone who books two legs separately will find that Etihad offers flights to Bahrain for less than Dh600, while British Airways price the Bahrain to London leg of its own service at around Dh1,300.
It means savvy travellers would pay less than Dh2,000 to reach the UK, or Dh5,000 less than options presented by the BA website.
Etihad also offers three direct flights a day to Heathrow, from around Dh2,800 during the period when BA is cancelling services. The BA website shows direct flights operating as normal in July and the rest of June.
Last year BA made changes to the route, cutting out a second leg to Muscat. In its first incarnation as Imperial Airways, the airline began operating services through what is now the UAE in the 1930s and later as BOAC to Abu Dhabi. It also operates two flights a day from Dubai.