ABU DHABI, DUBAI // For those suffering amid the relentless heat and rising humidity, Eid and the school holidays came at just the right time with tens of thousands heading to the airports for a summer break.
Today is likely to be one of the busiest days of the year at Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports, and the queues are expected to stretch through the terminal as families head off.
Ritesh Chauhan, 38, from the UK, was making the final preparations before his flight back home to see his family this afternoon.
“I’d booked it a while ago as I knew I was going to be in the UK to attend a friend’s wedding so the fact it’s coincided with the Eid holidays was a happy coincidence,” said the IT professional, who works in Dubai.
“We booked in advance so managed to get some good rates. We’ll combine this with our normal summer holidays as usually we have stayed in the UAE for Eid.
“The main thing for us was that our two children will also be starting their summer holidays.”
For those that booked long ago the fares were likely manageable – less so for anyone booking a last minute break.
Flights between Dubai and London Heathrow today (Friday) with Emirates Airline, returning in three weeks’ time, were listed as Dh4,870.
And for a last minute Eid getaway to Colombo – one of the most popular destinations – flights were almost Dhs3,800.
Travel agents said the most popular destinations are Indian Ocean islands including Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius, with some going slightly further afield to Bali.
For August, Europe - as always - remains a popular destination, with other destinations such as Georgia and Sri Lanka up on the list.
Helen Griffiths is going to spend the long weekend in the Seychelles, less than a five hour flight away.
“It’s so close, and much closer than if we were living back home in Ireland,” she said. “It’s weekends like this that we can make the most of these destinations which aren’t too far away as we wouldn’t necessarily go if it was from Ireland, cost and time wise.”
Passengers are being warned to arrive in plenty of time for flights, with Dubai International even incentivising passengers with discounts for those arriving early.
Extra staff and facilities will be made available at the country’s major airports this weekend to allow for the summer exodus.
Dubai International Airport has extra staff on hand to manage an estimated 1.9 million travellers expected through the airport in the coming week.
They expect the busiest period to be today (Friday) with over 76,000 departing passengers.
The busiest day for total traffic – departing, arriving and connecting – will be June 30 with over 262,000 passengers.
“Due to the heavy passenger loads we want to remind passengers to give themselves a bit of extra time to get to and through the airport,” said Anita Mehra, senior vice president of communication at operator Dubai Airports.
It is a similar story at Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Ahmed Al Shamsi, acting chief operations officer at Abu Dhabi Airport, said “we are coordinating with police, immigration and customs to ensure the airport has a sufficient number of employees to cater for the needs of the passenger numbers that have been forecast.”
The two peak periods are expected to be from June 20 to July 15 for departing passengers, and from August 15 to September 10 returning residents.
The number of passengers is expected to increase by five to eight per cent during the summer months compared to the same period last year, with around seven million passengers traveling through terminals.
Dubai resident Anthony Newland wasted no time in leaving for Canada as soon as his two children finished school yesterday. He was due to fly early this morning.
“We always book to fly as soon is summer is out,” he said.
“It’s just too hot to keep them entertained here and they’re really ready to leave and get to play outdoors when we’re back in Canada.”