Work opportunities, tourist visas fuel new rise in India-Dubai air travel

Air India Express has scheduled over 300 ‘bubble’ flights for September to the Middle East, compared to 118 flights last month

Airlines are witnessing a sudden rise in demand for travel from some of the Indian cities to Dubai, triggered by the emirate’s decision to issue tourist visas and increased flow of expat Indians returning for work in the UAE, travel industry officials said on Monday.

This has also led to some of the Indian carriers substantially increasing their flights to UAE for this month under the ‘air bubble’ pact with UAE.

“We are seeing an occupancy level of over 50 percent for flights to UAE from various cities in India. The occupancy level is much higher at 80-85 percent for flights from Kerala to UAE,” a senior Air India Express official told Arabian Business.

This is a substantial increase from the 25-30 percent occupancy level for Air India Express flights from India to the UAE until recently.

“Besides passengers holding residency or work visas in UAE, there is also an increase in passengers travelling on visiting visas to Dubai,” the Air India Express official said.

Industry officials said a vast majority of travellers with visiting visas are job seekers who had lost their jobs in Dubai or elsewhere in UAE during the early months of the Covid pandemic outbreak, in view of the fast opening up of economic activities there.

Indian budget carrier SpiceJet

“We are currently seeing increased demand for travel from India to UAE. This is, however, mostly from Indian residents who are returning to work there. As for travel on tourist visas, there is large number of enquiries,” Saju Mathews, VP – outbound travels, at Insight Tours and Travels, a leading tourist operator with offices in parts of India, told Arabian Business.

Mathews said many Indians are also travelling to Dubai on tourist visas for visiting their relatives and friends for unavoidable reasons.

Cities mostly in southern Indian states like Kerala and Karnataka, besides metros such as Delhi and Mumbai, are seeing the increase in demand for travel to Dubai and other cities in the UAE.

Air India Express, which operates the maximum number of flights to UAE under repatriation and special flights categories, has scheduled over 300 ‘bubble’ flights for September in the Middle East sector.

India’s low cost carrier IndiGo

The national carrier, which operates flights to Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi in the UAE, had scheduled 118 ‘bubble’ flights to UAE in August.

Indian budget carrier SpiceJet has also announced several ‘bubble’ flights to Dubai from cities across India including Amritsar, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Kozhikode until September 10.

Sources said it is expected to announce more flights soon for the remaining period of the month.

Airline industry sources told Arabian Business other Indian carriers such as IndiGo and Vistara are also expected to operate more flights to UAE this month.

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