UAE-India flights: Expats delay travel plans by months amid Covid surge; air fares rise

Abu Dhabi - Some are however braving odds to fly and tend to their ailing loved ones.


Ashwani Kumar

Published: Mon 26 Apr 2021, 4:28 PM

Last updated: Mon 26 Apr 2021, 4:33 PM

Many expats are putting their India plans on hold over fears that the 10-day India-UAE flight suspension may be extended, travel agents told Khaleej Times

An official at Abu Dhabi office of Arabian Travel Agency, the general sales agent for Air India Express, said many are pushing forward their trips by one to four months.

“There is an apprehension that the suspension may be extended, so people are rescheduling their bookings. One passenger postponed his travel from this Thursday to September.

The bare minimum that any person is extending travel from here is by a month. But people are also flying from here. Since our reservation system is down, we can’t provide details, but many people are travelling and there are many cancellations,” he said.

Amid a deepening Covid-19 crisis in India, some expats are, however, braving odds to somehow fly and tend to their ailing loved ones. And despite a dip in demand for tickets and uncertainty over extension of travel restrictions, airfares from the UAE to Indian destinations have increased to offset loss in revenue because of empty returning flights, travel agents said.

A normal Abu Dhabi-Kochi flight ticket costing Dh550-Dh600 is now going for Dh800, the ATA official said, adding that rise in airfare is also a common trend during Ramadan and before Eid holidays. “As flights are returning empty from Indian sectors, we cannot slash fares of air tickets as it will lead to a total loss in revenue,” he added.

Meanwhile, Syed Khaja Mohiddin, director of operations, Royal Regis Travel and Tours, Dubai, said they have seen air ticket cancellations as well as new bookings.

“People are cancelling tickets. These are people who fear a lockdown situation in India and being unable to return. And those who cannot take chances with their jobs in case they are stuck in India.

However, some who can work remotely are travelling. Also, there are some who are travelling to take care of ailing family members and be with their loved ones in this hour of crisis to offer them moral support,” he added.

Mohiddin said though airfares are rising steadily, they are offering discounts. “Normally Dubai-Delhi return ticket will cost Dh1,400, but now it is Dh2,700 and Dh3,000. But we are giving good discounts on tickets and also offering free cancellations.”

As the number of new infections in India surge past 350,000, many residents are making changes to their travel plans.

Riyaz M.K., a bachelor, has rebooked his ticket for next week to July end, which means missing another Eid celebration with family and friends back home in Kerala.

“I had planned to be home for Eid and booked tickets much in advance, but no one there wants me to come. I guess this year too, I will be alone here. I just hope everyone remains safe,” he said.

Jaya Mukherjee, another resident, is planning to book a ticket this week to Kolkata to tend to her aged parents who are unwell. “Even mild symptoms are suddenly aggravating. It’s a terrible sight. It’s heart-breaking,” she said.

Many travel agents say they have seen many people break down at their offices as they desperately seek a way out from the present situation. “Please do not panic. We will overcome this situation like we did during the first wave,” Mohiddin advised people.

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