UAE - A week-long Eid holiday that is expected to begin from June 3 has sparked excitement among UAE residents who are itching to take a holiday with family and friends. But the sky-high prices of air tickets due to the seasonal demand are dampening the travel plans of many, Khaleej Times has learnt.
Tickets to some popular destinations like Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Maldives and Bangkok have increased up to 80 per cent, said travel agents.
She said Europe, Thailand, Maldives and Indonesia are the most frequently asked and booked destinations from their end.
Visa-free or visa-on-arrival destinations like Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are also the hotspots for holidays, and travel agents said there is a huge 'booking rush' from UAE residents.
But tickets to these destinations have also gone through the roof. For instance, flydubai roundtrip tickets to Georgia booked between June 3 and June 10 will cost you Dh3,400.
During off season, the same tickets cost between Dh1,000 and Dh1,200.
Now, figure this: Even if travellers opt for an indirect flight to Georgia, they still have to fork out Dh3,000.
Likewise, the Etihad economy class roundtrip tickets to Baku, Azerbaijan, is more than Dh3,200, while flydubai costs Dh2,400 and above. A return ticket to Istanbul, Turkey, is anything between Dh3,000 and Dh3,900, as against the Dh1,500 or less during off season.
The same goes for plane tickets to many cities in India, as many Indian families prefer to fly back home to celebrate Eid.
Tickets that were pegged at Dh1,500 or less till last week to Kochi have shot up to Dh3,000 and above in most airlines. Similarly, roundtrip tickets to Mumbai and Delhi have also spiked by 60 or 70 per cent.
Even budget airline fares are hovering above Dh2,500, for instance to Kannur, Kochi or Thiruvananthapuram, which are some of the busiest destinations during Eid.
Despite the high prices, tickets to most sectors are already sold out, especially for the economy class.
Manoj Balakrishnan, manager of Bin Moosa Travels in Abu Dhabi, said they are getting many enquiries regarding last-minute Eid deals.
"People are overwhelemed by the long Eid holiday, and we are inundated with enquiries. Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bangkok and Nepal are the most popular destinations due to the ease in getting visas on arrival," he said.
Balakrishnan said that expecting the rush, his agency had pre-purchased seats and, hence, they are able to offer good deals to travellers.
"Package tour deals that include tickets, hotel stays, airport transfer and sightseeing are in high demand as they come cheaper. For instance, we are offering a three-night, four-day package to Georgia and Armenia for Dh2,900 per person, all inclusive."
Lakshmi Anand, operations manager at International Travel Services, said tour packages offered by airlines are the top-sellers, as well as staycation packages.
"Most of the UAE hotels are offering family packages with access to theme parks at a reasonable price," said Anand.
Some rethink their plans
But many families who spoke with Khaleej Times said they are rethinking their travel plans due to the exorbitant prices.
"I will have to shell out at least Dh20,000 to have a family holiday anywhere outside the UAE this Eid. That is beyond my reach," said Ramesh Nair, a father of two in Abu Dhabi.
The electrical engineer said he could not find a single deal with a roundtrip ticket costing less than Dh1,800.
"I checked with at least three travel agents, but the prices they quoted were above Dh3,500 per person. With a family of four, that would cost me nearly Dh15,000 only for the tickets."
Anitha Iyer, a housewife in Sharjah, said she was shocked to see the prices for European destinations.
"Both my husband and I have Schengen visa and the long Eid break was ideal for us to have a holiday in Paris. But I dropped the plan when I saw that the tickets would cost more than Dh3,800 per person."
The couple, instead, has opted for a staycation in Fujairah. "That suits our pocket. We will plan a Paris holiday when ticket prices get affordable," said Iyer.
Though it is easy to beat the high ticket prices by booking early, residents say it is difficult to plan in advance because of the uncertainty regarding the holiday dates.
Residents may get a six-day Eid break
The Federal Authority for Government Human Resources issued an official list of holidays for UAE's public and private sectors earlier this year, following the government's decision to unify holidays for public and private sectors.
According to the new list, residents might enjoy up to six days off for Eid Al Fitr - including Friday and Saturday - from June 3 to June 8. Ramadan 30 is likely to fall on June 4 (subject to moon sighting), based on the IACAD calendar.
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