Coronavirus Pandemic

UAE Covid: Pakistani expats shelve Eid travel plans on rising airfare

Muzaffar Rizvi/Dubai
Filed on May 3, 2021 | Last updated on May 3, 2021 at 11.54 pm
Reuters file photo

The revised air travel plan will be effective from midnight on May 5 till midnight on May 20.

Pakistani residents in the UAE have shelved their Eid travel plans to home country as airfare shoot up following the country's decision to cut inbound international travel by 80 per cent from May 5 to May 20.

Talking to Khaleej Times, overseas Pakistanis residing in Dubai, Sharjah and other emirates said air ticket prices surged almost 30 per cent in past few days as average one-way airfare to Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar climbed from Dh650-700 to Dh950-1,000 per passenger.

Covid: UAE-Pakistan airfare may go up by 50% ahead of Eid

Some residents also shelved travel plans due to uncertainty of international flight operations, lockdowns and rising cases of coronavirus in the country.

High ticket price

Fahad Zubairi, a resident of Sharjah, said he postponed his travel plan on Eid due to high ticket price and uncertainty over availability of return ticket to the UAE in the wake of NCOC decision to restrict international flight operations to 20 per cent from May 5.

"I do a job in private sector and will get a short leave in addition to Eid holidays. I can't afford to delay my return in case international flight operations will be suspended or continue with limited capacity," he said.

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has decided to reduce inbound international flights by 80 per cent from May 5 to May 20 to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The revised air travel plan will be effective from midnight on May 5 till midnight on May 20 and NCOC will review its decision on May 18 to determine next steps.

Limited seats availability

Zulfiqar Ali, a Dubai resident, said he was willing to visit the country to see her ailing mother during the Eid holidays but the ticket cost for his home city suddenly shoot up with limited seats availability on return flights soon after Eid.

Covid-19: Pakistan to reduce inbound flights by 80%

"I was excited with my plans to see my family during the Eid holidays but ticket cost to Multan has registered a sharp 20 per cent increase in past few days," he said.

"Travel agents also unable to confirm my seat on return flight due to uncertainty over international airlines' operations, so I have no choice but to shelve my travel plan on Eid," he said.

The UAE and Pakistani airlines operate more than 150 weekly flights to different cities of the South Asian country, according to industry officials.

The UAE carriers such as Emirates airline, Etihad Airways, Air Arabia and flydubai dominates Pakistani aviation market as most travellers prefer them over Pakistani airlines due to reliability, accuracy in timings with more flight options and quality of service.

No traditional demand

Abbas Raza Dar, UAE country manager for Pakistan's second biggest airline airblue, said most travellers are reluctant to confirm their bookings on Eid due to uncertainty over flight operations and lockdowns in the country.

"Pakistan has introduced smart lockdowns in the country and ban intercity travel in high risk areas with reference to Covid cases. Passengers who will land in any major city of the country will be facing troubles to travel to smaller towns due to restrictions on movement," Dar told Khaleej Times on Monday.

"I don't see a traditional high demand for travel to Pakistan on Eid. Ticket price will go up due to limited seats availability if the airlines will rationalise their capacity in line with the authorities' decision to reduce inbound international travel," he said.

Rising Covid cases

Munawar Ahmad, a former banker, said he shelved travel plans to Pakistan due to uncertainty over international flight operations in post Eid period.

"Higher ticket prices closer to Eid is a normal phenomenon and I am ready for it. But we are not sure this flight reductions will only be restricted for two weeks. It might be extended or suspended as the coronavirus cases are still increasing in the country," he said.

Pakistan is also currently battling a raging third wave of coronavirus infections. It has reported 4,213 new cases of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours as well as 79 casualties. Latest data indicates that the country conducted 45,954 tests in the last 24 hours and found 9.16 per cent are infected with the virus.


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