Stock Dubai Airport
The flights are back... Dubai's opening up for tourists from July 7 is proving a winning strategy. If all goes well, this will have a decisive influence on activity in the November to end February phase. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: Want to fly into the ͵羺 at the cheapest rate? Then, try Ras Al Khaimah.

It was last week that the emirate’s airport allowed resumption of flights, and airlines have responded by offering some of the most competitive rates in the ͵羺.

A flight from Peshawar to Ras Al Khaimah can be booked for less than Dh600 against the Dh700 – Dh800 charged by airlines to Dubai and Sharjah. Flying in from Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka to Ras Al Khaimah can now be had for around Dh2,400, compared to at least Dh3,000 in the other two emirates.

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Airlines have been quite aggressive in their ticketing strategies as soon as Ras Al Khaimah allowed commercial flights to resume from last week. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Ditto on the Kathmandu sector. Passengers have to shell out Dh3,000 and above for most Dubai-bound flights, but a flight to Ras Al Khaimah will only set passengers back by about Dh2,400.

Travel agencies believe there will be higher demand for these Ras Al Khaimah bound flights going forward, although initial response has been lukewarm. One factor could be the additional Dh300-Dh400 it will cost passengers landing at Ras Al Khaimah to drive over to Dubai or Sharjah.

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Factor in Umrah

Demand on other sectors could lift Ras Al Kahimah’s prospects and the airlines that serve it. Travel industry sources expect resumption of flights to destinations in Saudi Arabia as a likely boost for demand. “If they re-start Jeddah flights for Umrah pilgrims, that will be good,” said a spokesperson at Newrak Leisure Travel.

Saudi Arabia will allow pilgrims from outside the Kingdom to perform Umrah from November 1.

Flights are returning

In recent weeks, ͵羺 airlines have been adding more routes across their networks after the COVID-19 induced halt. Emirates now flies to 99 destinations now, which is about 63 per cent of the airline’s pre-pandemic network.

And in what should bring some cheer to the airline industry, Emirates has been deploying its A380s across multiple routes to meet higher demand. The jumbo aircraft serves Cairo, Paris, London Heathrow, Guangzhou, Toronto, and Moscow, and the Dubai airline said that it will increase the deployment in line with demand and operational approvals.

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad has 58 destinations on its network up and running - nearly half of the routes it was running in March.

Travel agents have noted an increase in inbound tourists to Dubai since the emirate re-opened on July 7. “The number of flights operated by Emirates, Etihad and Air Arabia in July was around 10 per cent of the year before,” said Henk Ombelet, an analyst at Cirium. “By now, this has increased to around 30 per cent.”

Outbound

At the same time, booking enquiries to fly from the ͵羺 to tropical destinations like Maldives and Seychelles are also picking up. Carriers can rely on sustained regional demand as well. Due to a ban on inbound flights from India, thousands of expat workers based in Kuwait, Bahrain and, Saudi Arabia are now looking to fly via airports in the ͵羺.

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Etihad too has been adding more flights, and the full-scale launch of services to Israel will open up another important market for it and Abu Dhabi International Airport. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

New found possibilities

Nothing has raised the mood in the local airline industry than the announcement of flights to Israel, and a route that will propel local carriers to operate more of their fleets.

Apart from faster flight times and lower emissions, the agreement will promote commercial tries and “opens a new market for [Israeli] passengers, both in terms of destinations and for entry onto ͵羺 carriers’ networks,” said Andrew Charlton, an aviation industry analyst. This “adds to their network spread, which is also good.

“What needs to be worked on next is the commercial relationships between the various carriers. This is the way for aviation - states lead with negotiations of rights and access and then leave it to the commercial carriers to work out the rest.”

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͵羺's airports and airlines are making the gradual adjustments to operate in a COVID-19 influenced environment Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News