Travellers need to book summer holidays as soon as possible or risk paying higher prices, experts say.
A lack of supply as airlines get back on their feet after the effects of the pandemic, coupled with increasing jet fuel prices, are the chief reasons for the continuing increase in flight costs.
Experts estimated that the average airline fare had increased by up to 30 per cent from pre-pandemic prices, but that can vary from airline to airline.
For example, the lowest price of a direct Emirates airline return flight from Dubai to London, returning a fortnight later in mid-June, is Dh2,765, according to the airline’s website.
Some airlines are charging close to Dh4,000 for a flight to London.
A return trip from Dubai to Mumbai in mid-June is available from Dh1,455 with Emirates. The average cost of direct flights from the UAE to India is up 22 per cent from the same period in 2019, according to Amosafer.
A trip to Manila during the same period starts at Dh2,150 on Etihad Airways' website. Direct flights to the Philippines from the UAE have jumped 53 per cent since 2019, according to the same data source.
The higher prices are expected to continue until at least July or August when airlines will be in a position to increase their supply to cope with the demand from travellers keen to make up for time lost in the pandemic.
“At the moment there is a bit of a mismatch because there is much more demand than supply,” Ross Veitch, chief executive of travel company Wego, told The National.
“Airlines are also passing on the increased cost of fuel to customers as they make up for a rough couple of years.
“They are making hay while the sun is shining.”
Mr Veitch, on the sidelines of this week's Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, said the supply issues will take some time to resolve.
“Supply is constrained because airlines took a lot of services offline due to the pandemic,” he said.
“It takes time to bring that level of service back as many staff were laid off or furloughed and airlines have been understandably cautious about bringing back supply.
“Planes that have not been flown in some time need to be recertified, as do pilots.”
Risk missing out
Mr Veitch advised travellers to book holidays for the summer as soon as possible or risk missing out.
“If you haven’t booked a summer trip already, then you really should get on it,” he said.
“If you don’t then you may struggle to find something because of the increased demand.
“I’ve been trying to book flights to Europe for work myself and it’s been really tough.”
Tarique Khatri, executive vice president for Seera, a travel company based in the Mena region, said the increased cost of fuel has played a significant part in the increased airline prices.
The price of jet fuel, which represents most airlines' single biggest cost, has soared 146 per cent year on year, according to airline trade body Iata, with the global average cost of a barrel of oil reaching more than $160 last month.
“The increase in fuel prices has had a direct impact on the cost of airline tickets,” Mr Khatri said.
“The other factor is airlines are not back yet to full capacity, which is causing seating availability to be limited.”
He predicted the increased cost of travel would continue well into the summer months.
“The demand is clearly back so it’s a question of supply being able to match that,” Mr Khatri said.
“I expect we’ll see supply begin to settle down around July or August, which means prices should begin to ease then.
“If the prices get to the point where they are too high then the airlines will be left with a load of empty seats, which is not something they want to happen.”
Mr Khatri estimated that flight costs in the region were close to 30 per cent higher on average than in the same period in 2019, before the pandemic struck.
One trend to emerge is travellers booking more connecting flights than before, to reduce costs and get around the lack of available seats on direct trips.
“We are seeing more people getting connecting flights with stopovers of about two or three hours,” he said.
“That is because prices are high, and fewer seats are available, on direct flights.
"We're seeing a lot more people booking Emirates and Etihad flights with short stopovers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi than before."