India-Dubai flights: bookings and prices soar as vaccination rules are relaxed

Travel agencies report a more than 100 per cent increase in airfares

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Bookings and prices for flights from India to Dubai soared after Emirates airline said Indians did not need a Covid-19 vaccination certificate to return to the emirate.

In an update on its website and on Twitter on Tuesday, the airline said a "vaccine certificate was no longer a requirement".

But all passengers must carry a negative result from a PCR test taken no more than 48 hours before their flight departs.

Emirates said all travellers must secure pre-approval on the website of the GDRFA immigration authority, which sends passengers a permit to show to airlines when booking.

On Wednesday, the GDRFA website showed that uploading proof of vaccination was now optional. The authority did not comment on the apparent change.

We’ve seen a considerable increase, not just in bookings but inquiries. People are booking tickets from all over India
Godly Babukutty, Epic Travel managing director

Since then, travel booking websites and agencies have reported a sharp increase in calls, inquiries and bookings.

Mamoun Hmedan, managing director for Mena and India at travel booking website Wego, said travellers had been eagerly awaiting the easing of the ban on flights from India.

"We saw around 170,000 flight searches from India to the UAE from the beginning of August to date, an increase of 100 per cent compared to the month of July," he said.

"We expect to see a further increase in the number of searches in the next couple of weeks."

Godly Babukutty, managing director of Epic Travel in Dubai, said his travel agents were flooded with calls on Wednesday and ticket prices had shot up.

“We’ve seen a considerable increase, not just in bookings but inquiries. People are booking tickets from all over India,” he said.

“On August 5, we flew passengers on Emirates for about Dh800 [$218] but if you see now, the price is Dh2,000 on August 18. On flydubai, you can expect to pay about Dh1,100 this weekend.

“The prices are high as airlines have to factor in the cost of keeping seats empty to maintain social distancing. They will not fly to make losses.

“Relaxing vaccination rules to return is great. There are so many people under 45 years in India who have not been vaccinated because of the rush. This will definitely help younger people to return. Employers in Dubai will be happy as so many of their staff were stuck in India.”

Rayna Day Tours and Travels in Dubai said airfare to Dubai from major Indian cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai had more than doubled.

“We were selling tickets for about Dh700 to Dh800 one-way just before the announcement. It now costs Dh1,800 to Dh1,900. This is for Emirates airline. It’s slightly cheaper for other airlines such as Air India and Spice Jet,” said Kiran Nandeshwar, ticketing officer at the agency.

“People are calling us and inquiring about the rules."

Shammar PP, a customer service agent at Deira Travel And Tourist Agency, said bookings were up because many residents were now looking to come back.

"Bookings are definitely up and tickets cost at least Dh1,000. There's nothing less than this," he said.

"Most people who have bought the tickets from us said getting the GDRFA approval was easy. Many Indians have already started inquiring about tourist visas as they hope authorities will open Dubai to Indian tourists."

But flydubai told The National it was still too early to say how passenger numbers from India would be affected because the rules were constantly updated.

Updated: August 11, 2021, 1:58 PM