Travel costs soar amid Middle East dates clash

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If you haven’t already booked your flight out of the Gulf this summer and were planning to, you may want to get moving. Outbound travel costs are already at least 10-30 percent higher than summer last year – and that’s on top of the usual premium charged during the popular mid-year months.

Even business and first class cabins are filling fast and running at full capacity for most routes into Europe, Dubai, and Cairo, according to travel agents.

“There is indeed a visible rush,” the managing director of U Travel, Basel Abu Alrub, told Arabian Business.

“[It’s] caused by the month of Ramadan splitting the summer holiday in two halves. This rush is more visible this year because the time between the start of the school holidays and Ramadan is tighter which means that more people are travelling within an even shorter time frame. This is putting more strain on the already busy airlines routes departing from major Gulf hubs.

“The rush means that those needing to travel during this squeezed period are indeed settling for more expensive seats.”

The Dubai schools are generally on holidays from the end of June to mid-September and Ramada is expected to start on July 10 and Eid Al Fitr on August 9.

During this period, direct return flights to popular summer destinations are going for a premium.

According to farecompare.com, a direct return flight from Dubai using the same carrier for both legs will cost at least $1,036 to London, $655 to Vienna, $485 to Cairo, $359 to Delhi, $776 to Singapore, $1,932 to Sydney and $1,899 to New York.

Some more savvy travellers are attempting to avoid the bloated prices by taking less traditional routes or flights with at least one connection, which are generally cheaper.

For example, Emirates Airline is selling direct return flights between Dubai and London from approximately $1300, while Turkish airline Pegusus is offering return flights for only $453. The catch is a 13-hour stopover in Istanbul, making the journey three times as long as a direct route.

Travelling direct but mixing up airlines for each leg of the journey also can knock off hundreds of dollars from the cost of a return ticket.

Kanoo Travel general manager Suni D'souza said some of his customers had changed their travel dates to avoid the most expensive times.

“A lot of people who wanted to go away on leisure during Ramadan have either postponed or brought it forward [to correspond with] the school holidays,” D’souza said.

“It’s peak season; every year during this period you normally have higher prices ... [but] this summer demand has gone up big time. I think it’s a sign of the improving economy and freer liquidity in the market.”

D’souza said the most popular destinations were in Europe, including London, Germany and Austria, as well as the Far East, such as Malaysia and Singapore, and South East Asia including Australia and New Zealand.

Abu Alrub said civil unrest in some Middle East destinations also was pushing up prices as the number of preferred travel routes reduced.

“Another factor putting more strain on some routes include the shifting trends on holiday destinations caused by the political situation in the Middle East and Turkey,” he said.

“Traffic into Dubai is expected to be at its highest as well as into more stable European destination such as Vienna, London, Paris, and Rome amongst many others.

“The Damascus route, being closed, has increased traffic into Amman and Beirut as well.”

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