UAE winter holidays: Flight tickets up by 60% as residents book last-minute vacations

Even countries with e-visa options for UAE residents where visas are approved within three to four days have seen a drastic increase in flight fares


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Mon 11 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 11 Dec 2023, 8:43 PM

Several UAE residents found themselves scrambling to adjust their holiday plans due to a significant surge in ticket prices this winter, experiencing a marked increase of over 50 per cent.

Travel experts in the region emphasised that this sudden rise has prompted many residents to rethink their initial plans of travelling to their home countries for Christmas and New Year festivities. Consequently, an increasing number of individuals are now choosing to celebrate the holiday season in the UAE, where the festive atmosphere is in full swing.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Lakshmi Anand, Managing Partner S&T Travel Dubai, said, “Since the school holidays started, flight tickets have increased by 50 to 60 per cent in December 2023. For popular tourist destinations such as Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, fares range from Dh3,200 onwards compared to summer holidays, where the fares are in the range of Dh2,000. Land packages to these destinations have also increased due to high demand. Flights to home countries such as India, Pakistan, and the Philippines have seen a hike of 50 per cent this winter until the second week of January 2024.”

Even countries with e-visa options for UAE residents where visas are approved within three to four days, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Albania, have seen a drastic increase in flight fares, explain veterans from the industry. “Due to this, travellers are experiencing difficulties finalising the holiday packages,” she added.

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Travel agents also emphasise that families typically journey to their home countries during the winter break. However, those who do this usually make their bookings several months in advance to secure more competitive rates.

“Travellers are mostly homebound, which has also been the trend around this time of the year. Across the world, the fares increased during this time. We can see this rise in fares to European countries, the US, and India as well. Prices have almost doubled, with a 50 to 60 per cent hike during school vacations compared to the previous month. People are mainly going back to their home countries rather than holiday destinations,” said Raheesh Babu, COO of

Many opt for road travel and staycations

Meanwhile, residents eager to return home and spend time with their families note that the steep increase in ticket prices has been disappointing.

French expat Marie Dubois said, “My husband and I were initially thinking of travelling to Paris, but getting leave was an issue for my husband. Then, one of his colleagues who had applied for leave earlier cancelled his plans due to some emergency in his family (here). Unfortunately, by the time we could book our tickets, prices had really shot up.

"When I checked the fares, an Emirates airline flight to Paris for a round trip was over Dh4,200 per person. Air France was also similar. Even a non-stop flight in Gulf Air was around Dh3,300 per person.

She explains that only flights with a break journey with two stops or one-stop were slightly cheaper but still over Dh 2,500 per passenger.

“Considering all factors, we abandoned the plan due to the exorbitant increase in ticket prices, particularly when multiplied by three, as it didn't make any financial sense. Instead, this year, our plan shifted to enjoying the UAE's weather and embracing the Christmas festivities alongside friends through its array of activities,” she added.

Mariam Kiwa
Mariam Kiwa

Similarly, Egyptian expat Mariam Kiwan is now going to Oman instead of her annual visit back home.

She said, “Every year, we travel to Egypt, either Cairo or Sharm el Sheikh, for Christmas. Initially this year, we had thought we wouldn’t travel to our home country. But later, we wanted to visit our family, so we contemplated going home. We then surfed the internet to look at ticket prices. We realised that the prices are extremely high at this time of the year, and any last-minute booking will cause a huge dent in our pockets. It normally costs Dh1,700 in Egyptair or Emirates. Now it’s almost double.”

Mariam added, "We have instead thought of going to Muscat by road. The roads are good, and the journey offers picturesque landscape views. We will be travelling over one of the weekends and spending the rest of the time, both Christmas and New Year, here in the UAE.”

Ijaz Hassan
Ijaz Hassan

Indian national Ijaz Hassan had no plans of travelling back home during the vacation. But his plans altered when his sister, who lives in Bangalore (Karnataka, India), decided to visit their parents in Cochin (Kerala).

“Since I have a four-month-old daughter, and nobody has seen her, I thought it’s a good idea for us to travel to Cochin, where the entire family can see my newborn. Since my sister will also be coming to meet my parents, it will be a big gathering. But frankly, this holiday is turning out to be quite expensive for us as a round trip would cost Dh6,000 in Air Arabia from Abu Dhabi. Other airlines from Dubai cost over Dh7,500. Normally, a return ticket for one person to Cochin during the off-season, depending on the airline, can cost as low as Dh700. So, the difference is quite significant,” he added.


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