After two lockdowns and the best part of a year without flying for most people, the announcement of a UK-UAE air corridor is blissful news for would-be travellers.
Britons with ties to the UAE say they cannot wait to return to the Emirates to catch up with friends and family after the UAE was added to Britain's air travel corridor list on Thursday, and travellers flying to the UK from the UAE after 4am on November 14 are delighted they will no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days.
However, passengers heading from the UK to the UAE are restricted from flying until after December 2, as England is still in lockdown, and those heading from the Emirates to the UK must observe the country's movement restrictions, such as not socialising with other households when they land.
UK travel companies said on Friday that they expect a surge in holiday bookings for the UAE this winter, with prices likely to rise by 20 per cent.
Here's how Britons with ties to the UAE and the UK have coped over the past nine months when restrictions limited travel between the two countries:
“My grandfather died and my father had to watch the funeral online”
For Gabriella Parsons, 31, an actress living in Camden, London, the last months have brought a number of challenges.
Ms Parson, whose parents live in Dubai, was brought up in the emirate until she was 18 before she relocated to Britain to study.
During the first lockdown, her mother got caught in the UK, while her father remained in Dubai. Then the family suffered a personal tragedy, when her grandfather on her father’s side died.
“Because [my father] was isolating on his own in Dubai he couldn’t come home for the funeral, so we had to do the funeral online,” she said.
“It’s been difficult not being able to see each other. While we’re used to being apart – when my brother and I came to university we’d try to have video conversations to keep in touch – we’ve always known that you can get on a flight and fly back if anything went wrong on both sides. So, it was a big thing not knowing when you could see each other.”
Ms Parsons was due to fly to Dubai in April for a wedding, but she moved the flight to December 18 because she hoped the pandemic would have resolved by Christmas
"I was hoping for the best that we could spend Christmas together so when the news came it was quite a relief for all of us that it can happen now and we can see each other," she said.
“I was going to Dubai for Christmas anyway, but now I don’t have to quarantine”
For London resident Gabriella Moore, the new air corridor means she can finally fly to Dubai in mid-December to visit her family there after not seeing them for a year.
Ms Moore, 31, who works in corporate events management, plans to reactivate an Emirates ticket she was forced to postpone at the start of the pandemic, so that she can enjoy a Christmas reunion with her parents, her brother and his wife.
“I haven’t seen them since last Christmas and would normally have seen them twice since then," said Ms Moore, who grew up in the Emirates and moved back to the UK last year.
"I was hoping to go over Easter and then I probably would have gone out in the middle of the summer. I’m very excited, especially now that they've opened that travel corridor, which means I won't have to quarantine when I come back here."
Ms Moore said she was planning to fly to the UAE for Christmas even if the air corridor was not introduced because she misses her family.
“It’s Christmas, so I definitely would have gone anyway. But the fact that it's now on the quarantine-free list is really good. It just makes things a lot easier”.
"I've lost money on holidays that never happened"
For author Saurav Dutt, visiting the UAE every year is part of his annual routine to ensure he does not miss out on the country’s literature festivals, such as the Sharjah International Book Fair and the Hay Festival Abu Dhabi.
The last time he flew to there was in February for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, and he now hopes to return to the same event in February next year.
“It's going to be a hybrid online and physical person event which is a wise decision; for 2021 I'll be taking part in The Literary Conversations Across Borders series,” said the London resident.
“[The air corridor] means that I am able to network effectively in my writing career. I just wrote a book on the Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan who is a well-known public face in the Gulf with a sizable fan base and populace that love Bollywood films. The pandemic completely upended my promotion of the book in the UAE and Gulf regions.”
Mr Dutt said he also plans to travel for a personal holiday, which will relieve some anguish he has felt in recent months.
“Like many I have felt pangs of depression in not being able to travel as that is something I do regularly. I've lost money on holidays that never happened and it will be wonderful to be in the UAE once again,” he said.
“This move provides an excellent opportunity to explore the UAE in general and I hope that many holidaymakers will do exactly that since many other territories and countries are still restricted. Hopefully it will encourage them to come again and to spread the word that it continues to be an amazing place to visit.”
“I’ve struggled mentally with not being able to see my parents”
Dubai resident Emmy Brown said she jumped for joy when she heard the news she could return home to see family and friends without having to quarantine.
Ms Brown, 42, said she had to cancel plans to see her parents back home in the West Country in England three times this year because of the pandemic.
“It’s been over a year since I’ve been home to see my parents,” said the marketing consultant.
“I struggled mentally, to be honest, knowing I wasn’t able to get back to see them during the pandemic.
“Emotionally it was very tough because being an expat so far from home I always counted on seeing my family a few times each year to keep me grounded.”
Ms Brown tried to get her parents to visit her and her husband in Dubai when the emirate opened again for tourists in July.
However, fears over travelling during the pandemic made them hesitant to make the journey.
“My mum is close to 70 and my stepdad is older, he is at the age where he could be vulnerable which makes it even more difficult,” she said.
“They were really excited when I told them I had managed to book flights and would now be able to finally see them in person again.
“That’s providing of course that lockdown ends as planned in England on December 2.”