Airfares from UAE to certain airports in India cost as much as travelling to European destinations and the city of London, Dubai-based travel agents have revealed.

Since schools in the UAE have closed for summer holidays, scores of expatriate families have left, or are about to leave the country to spend the vacation months of July and August in India. While many families booked their tickets months in advance, those who considered booking their tickets at the last minute are now reconsidering their trips back home due to sky-rocketing prices.

Kerala-sector air tickets are among the highest at the moment, travel agents and Indian expatriates have said.

No respite in prices

Air ticket and hotel booking travel aggregators, and metasearch engines such as Sky Scanner and MakeMyTrip.com show one-way direct flight tickets prices to Kerala’s Kochi on July 3, priced between Dh1,554 and Dh2,287 (all prices are for one-way tickets).

Meanwhile, a direct Dubai to Heathrow flight, which takes 7 hours and 45 minutes, is priced at Dh2,680. According to Afi Ahmed, the managing director of Smart Travels, the travel cost to Kerala is ironic as there are four international airports in the South Indian state. "The journey time to Kerala destinations is not more than four hours and ten minutes," he said.

“For example, the lowest price of one ticket to Delhi stands at approximately Dh1,330, and the most expensive flight to Delhi is Dh1,987. Yet, Delhi is a connection destination for many cities near the Indian capital that do not have regular flights, including Jammu and Kashmir, and Haryana,” Ahmed explained.

“Many expatriates travel to Delhi and then take onward flights to neighbouring states,” he added. However, Kerala has four international airports – Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Kannur, and Kozhikode, yet the prices are so high, said Ahmed.

“It is not that the volume of demand to fly to Kerala is the highest. It’s the same all over India. Unfortunately, this has been the case for decades,” he stated. “We will see prices stabilise only after mid-July. From that point on, return ticket prices will go up,” he added.

Ease in restrictions boosts demand

Moreover, this is the first summer where travel is relatively stress-free as many Covid-19 induced restrictions, such as pre-travel testing, have been eased. “The demand for travel this summer is very high. Not just in India but the world over. There is a sort of revenge travel trend,” he added. Moreover, with the upcoming Eid Al Adha holidays, the demand has further spiked.

Community groups, business leaders, politicians, and non-governmental organisations have made several attempts to appeal to the civil aviation authorities to standardise the summer prices.

Last week, an Indian politician from Kerala state wrote an ‘urgent’ letter of appeal to the Union Minister of Civil Aviation to initiate urgent action over the ‘unprecedented’ hike in airfares from the Gulf region.

CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP from Kerala Dr V Sivadasan wrote to Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on June 25, requesting the Minister to oversee the steep hike in airfares.

Sivadasan wrote, “Foreseeing the upcoming surge of passengers as the Gulf countries are getting into summer vacation and the festive occasion of Bakrid (Eid Al Adha), the Airlines have made a hefty increase in the flight charges from Gulf countries to India.”

He said in the letter, “This unprecedented hike in fares is putting a heavy toll on the life savings of Indian workers in Gulf countries.”

“Taking into account the immense financial stress imposed by Covid-19 and economic slowdown, I request your kind intervention into the matter so that the Indian diaspora, waiting to come to their homeland, are not fleeced by the flight companies,” stated Dr Sivadasan. He requested Scindia to intervene and initiate urgent action.

Expatriates are yet to see a respite

TP Sudheesh, the general manager of Deira Travel and Tourist Agency, said, “The irony is that both countries have plenty of airlines operating within the sector. Travelling is not just a requirement for families. However, many with trade and business relations also need to travel often.”

He added: “At any cost, both countries need to enhance the seat allocation as part of the bilateral trade agreements. In this case, airlines operating between two countries have utilised the maximum seat allocation.”

Sudheesh said airlines fix the rates as per historical data and market trends. “School vacation months are announced by education authorities months in advance. Airlines fix the prices from that moment on. In terms of corporates who provide travel allowances to their employees, they are not checking the airfares before making the booking. Even if the tickets are priced at Dh3,000, they will pay for them because employee holidays revolve around their child’s vacation time. Not all families can afford to pay such prices,” explained Sudheesh.

The agents have said civil aviation departments need to look into the matter urgently. “If they are not increasing the peak capacity, let them standardise ticket prices during peak seasonal times, so it is easier for the common man,” he added.

Capacity increased to some destinations

India’s flagship carrier Air India has boosted its capacity in the Dubai to Delhi sector.

Now, a total of 18 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners and one narrow-body Airbus will be operating between these two destinations; PP Singh, regional manager of Gulf, Middle East and Africa for Air India and Air India Express, confirmed to Khaleej Times.

“Before Wednesday, only 14 Dreamliners were operating between both sectors. Earlier, we had departures to Delhi only in the evenings and late evenings. With the addition of these morning flights, we are seeing robust demand and bookings between these two destinations,” he explained.

Cheapest one-way ticket prices to various destinations on July 3

  • Kochi – Dh1,554
  • New Delhi – Dh1,808
  • Kozhikode – Dh1,637
  • Kannur – Dh1,720
  • London – Dh2,080
  • Paris – Dh2,940
  • Bangkok – Dh2,452
  • Mumbai – Dh1,630
  • Bengaluru – Dh1,550
  • Karachi – Dh1,364
  • Istanbul – Dh2,070
  • Santorini – Dh1,165
  • Tbilisi – Dh1,120
  • Belgrade – Dh1,471
  • Milan – Dh2,790
  • Munich – Dh2,380

    (Note: All prices are as at the time to press and as made available on aggregator websites. They are not inclusive of taxes and other costs.)

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