UAE-India travel: Why 'historic' low ticket prices are not attracting travellers

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai
dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com Filed on March 1, 2021

Trend expected to reverse by March -end after Indian school examinations end.

A highly volatile travel regulatory market, stringent Covid testing and quarantine regulations, and high numbers in cases are deterring Indian expats makng a trip to their homeland despite historically low air ticket prices.

Indian expatriates, travel agents, and industry experts have said low ticket prices are ‘not at all encouraging passengers to take a trip home.’

Furthermore, passengers are reporting that they need to undergo at least five polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in case they need to travel to India for a two -week trip.

Agencies have said the trend is expected to reverse only by March -end once Indian school examinations end.

Swati Chawla, a business consultant in Dubai told Khaleej Times, “I had planned a trip to visit my aged parents in Mumbai in mid-March. I realised my family and I had to undergo at least five PCR tests at our own expense. That is not at all feasible.”

Passengers need to undergo one test each before and after departure, one seven days after arrival, one before returning to Dubai, and the final one at arrival. “Not only is it expensive, but my kids’ are still small. I can’t put them through those tests repeatedly,” said Chawla.

Dh700 for round-trip

The cheapest return ticket prices to Delhi is approximately Dh699, Dh748 to Hyderabad, Dh675 to Mumbai, and Dh711 to Kochi. Afi Ahmed, managing director of Smart Travels said.

“Earlier, one-way tickets from India to UAE were priced at about Dh600. Now, one-way tickets are going for as low as Dh250 to Dh310, depending on the destination.,” he informed.

However, according to Afi, low-cost tickets did not matter for passengers who are just not interested in travelling at the moment.

“A majority of repatriation cases have gone back. Families are not travelling due to the PCR regulations. Also, end of term examinations is ongoing, so families with school-going kids won’t travel at the moment.” Ahmed said, adding that the trend many reverse March- end or April first week.

New regulation problems

TP Sudheesh, the general manager of Deira Travel and Tourist Agency said, “The new regulations have created a lot of negative impact. Only those with absolutely unavoidable reasons are travelling now.”

“The pre- travel requirements, the excessive number of PCR tests, and the regulations are different in different states. For example, in Karnataka, there is no testing for international arrivals except those coming from the UK,” explained Sudheesh.

However, Sudheesh anticipates that by the second week of March, introduction of the IATA travel pass may change the negative trend.

“It is said that those who are fully vaccinated may not have to undergo mandatory quarantine. Also, India is on an aggressive vaccination drive and this may reduce Covid-19 numbers.”

Niche UK travellers spend 10 days in Maldives

Hemali Shah, managing director of City One Tourism also said people are not travelling unless it is absolutely necessary. “Many of those who had emergency travel plans left before the new regulations kicked in.”

However, Shah said a niche set of travellers, in a bid to avoid quarantine in the UK are now travelling to destinations such as the Maldives.

“People are still scared that the regulations may change at any time. The main fear is that they might get stuck in transit,” she explained.

However, Sudheesh said this category of travellers are very small. “Less than 10 per cent of the population travel in this manner. Middle income groups cannot afford to take diversions of this kind,” he explained.



Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88

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