Steep hike in UAE-India air tickets during the holiday season
The Vande Bharat Mission has been extended until the end of March 2021 amid restrictions on scheduled international flights to India.
For Indian expats, being with loved ones back home for the holidays will not come cheap even on repatriation and unscheduled flights. With Christmas and New Year just around the corner, there has been a steep hike in airfares under Vande Bharat Mission’s travel services.
A ticket for Wednesday and Sunday flights of Air India Express — from Abu Dhabi to Thiruvananthapuram in the south Indian state of Kerala — costs Dh770 on December 9 and soars to Dh1,480 by December 16. The rates dip to Dh830 on December 20 and Dh770 on December 23.
A return ticket between the last week of December and first week of January ranges from Dh468 to Dh607, making overall expenses north of Dh2,000 for an expat.
Meanwhile, Etihad Airways’ December 7 ticket from Abu Dhabi to Thiruvananthapuram comes for Dh803, but hits Dh1,503 by December 14 and Dh1,333 on December 21. A return ticket on December 29 is at Dh654 and January 2 at Dh1,094, bring total expenses to over Dh2,500.
Despite higher rates, a number of expats have booked air tickets.
“I don’t have any family emergencies but I am getting married in January. My family wants me home for Christmas. So, I will leave this month. My return ticket has cost me more than Dh2,000,” said Abu Dhabi resident Sam Varghese.
Repatriation flights until March
Amid restrictions on scheduled international flights to India, the Vande Bharat Mission has been extended until the end of March 2021.
It was only last week when the repatriation flights were extended until December 31 under Phase 8+. More than 480 Air India Express flights have been scheduled from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah airports to different destinations of India until the end of this month.
These developments come in the wake of the Indian government’s decision to extend the ban on scheduled international flights until the end of December as the country continues the fight against the pandemic.
However, UAE and Indian carriers are operating non-scheduled flights under the bilateral ‘bubble arrangement’. Now, passengers no longer have to register with the Indian missions and can book tickets directly with the airlines.
‘It’s best to book tickets in advance’
Tickets of Air India Express from December until March are open for sale. The latest schedule of flights from Abu Dhabi includes flights to Kochi, Kozhikode, Kannur and Thiruvananthapuram. Other services cover Delhi, Chennai, Tiruchirappalli, Madurai, Lucknow, Amritsar, Hyderabad, Vijayawada and Mangaluru.
A travel agent has urged expats to plan and book early as prices are expected to shoot up by next week.
“The rates may go up. So, passengers must book a ticket early. There may be a dip in prices depending on demand. We don’t see people travelling without an urgent reason as ICA approvals remain a worry for many,” a travel agent said.
During the recent visit of Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar to the UAE, Indian community leaders had highlighted the plight of expatriates who are unable to return to the UAE. The repatriation flights until March will help to bring them back to the UAE.
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