Indian expatriates residing in the UAE who plan to celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Lights, in India are advised to book their flight tickets promptly. Airfares to most Indian cities have already risen by 15 to 20 percent in comparison to October rates. As Diwali approaches on November 12, it is expected that airfares will continue to increase, particularly during the first week of November.
Rashid Abbas, the Managing Director of Arooha Travels, mentioned that airfares to India had experienced significant drops after the summer season, offering return airfares ranging from Dh780 to Dh1,100 to most Indian destinations due to lower demand. However, with the commencement of Dussehra festivities, airfares have begun to rise steadily. Many families are planning weeklong trips to India to celebrate the festive season.
Some travelers are exploring options for layover flights to other Indian airports to find more affordable fares. For example, instead of taking a direct Dubai-Bengaluru flight, some travelers are opting for a layover in Delhi, where fares are at least Dh700 cheaper. The choice between layover and direct flights also depends on the duration of the layover at the connecting airport. Passengers tend to book the layover option for one- to two-hour layovers, but if the layover exceeds four hours, they typically prefer direct flights.
Fares to major transit hubs in India, such as Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata, and destinations with limited direct flight options from the UAE like Lucknow, Varanasi, Kannur, Jaipur, and Surat, have doubled compared to October prices. Basheer Mohammed, the General Manager of Europe Travel and Tours, noted that transit hubs like Bengaluru and Chennai historically have higher airfares despite the presence of direct flights to these airports. He explained that despite Emirates operating three daily flights to Bengaluru, the flights have been averaging around 75 percent capacity, as most passengers are connecting to European and US destinations.
Even destinations with limited flight frequencies have considerably higher fares compared to locations offering direct connections to the UAE. For example, an Emirates flight to Kolkata between November 6 and 15 costs Dh3,255. This applies to places like Ahmedabad as well, with flights averaging Dh1,740 despite the availability of direct services by carriers such as IndiGo and SpiceJet.
Flights to Varanasi, operated by Air India Express, currently have an average fare of Dh1,902 during this time frame. In comparison, return economy flights to Jaipur by Air India Express cost Dh1,982, while Air Arabia offers tickets at Dh2,177. These fares are substantially higher than those from September to October, which ranged from Dh982 to Dh1,100.
It’s important to note that as per the Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism, Dubai welcomed 1,568,000 travelers from January to August this year, marking a 44 percent increase compared to the same period the previous year. India remains the largest source market for Dubai, with approximately 18 percent of the city’s visitors originating from the South Asian region. With significant events like the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and COP28, this sector anticipates a substantial increase in inbound travel. Consequently, airfares are expected to remain high from the second week of November until the first week of January 2024, with fares likely to remain in the range of Dh1,800 to Dh2,800 throughout the winter festive season.