No demand rise for one-way tickets – airlines

Mideast airlines say one-way ticket sales are not up, despite rumours of expats exodus.
By Rob Morris
Tue 14 Jul 2009 12:41 PM

Demand for one-way tickets from the Middle East has seen little change in recent weeks, local airlines have claimed, despite suggestions that thousands are planning to leave the region.

Arabian Business spoke to four major carriers in the region on Tuesday, all of which reported no recent increase in single fare purchases.

"We do not provide a detailed breakdown on our ticket sales, but we can confirm that the number of one-way tickets being booked out of the region is no different than in previous years – accounting for less than 1% of total bookings," a spokesperson for Dubai-based Emirates said.  

Etihad Airways said it had not experienced any noticeable increase in demand for one-way tickets out of Abu Dhabi, while Royal Jordanian insisted traffic flows were normal.

Meanwhile, a Gulf Air spokesperson also said there was nothing unusual to report for single-fare outbound traffic from Bahrain.

When called by Arabian Business, no one from Qatar Airways was available to comment.

Rising school fees and job losses in the UAE fuelled speculation that thousands of mainly western expatriates would leave the country this summer. In May, removal companies based in the emirate told Arabian Business they were overwhelmed with bookings for June. They also said the number of people relocating to the UAE had fallen dramatically.

The timing coincided with schools breaking up for the summer – a period when many expatriates hit by redundancies were expected to return home.

“The rise of people leaving the country has been on a tremendous scale,” said Jason Tom James, sales manager of ISS Worldwide Movers relocation department.

“Most of the people have lost their jobs. For the month of June we are already full because that’s when the schools close. This year we have seen tremendously large traffic moving out of the country, we can’t accommodate [the flood of business] even with the strength of our staff numbers,” he added.

While the number of western expatriates leaving the region is unknown, Indian authorities claim the economic downturn has seen up to 150,000 of their countrymen return home.  

Vayalar Ravi, minister for overseas Indian affairs, told the country’s lower house this month that delays in construction projects had forced between 50,000 to 150,000 people to go home on unpaid leave. He added that job cuts in Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar had taken place.

“Information received from Indian Missions in Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, Brunei, Libya, Jordan and Lebanon indicate that there is no report of Indians affected by the recession,” Ravi was quoted by the Financial Express as saying.

The Indian embassy in the UAE had no precise figures of returnees, but indicated that the number was considerably large, according to the IANS newswire.

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