UAE residents are once again making plans for UK trips after Feb 11’s lifting of COVID-19 test needs

Emirates times latest promotion well by offering 25% discounts on UK flights

Time to get busy again in full. UK is lifting all COVID-19 related requirements for fully-vaccinated arrivals. That could provide a timely pre-summer boost for UAE airlines.Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai: Removing all COVID-19 restrictions effective from Friday (February 11) seems to be just the boost UAE to UK travel demand needed, with travel agencies and portals confirming a rise in booking queries. From tomorrow, Britain will allow in all fully vaccinated arrivals without tests or quarantine needs.

Arrivals at UK airports will require only a passenger locator form. Travellers who are not recognised as fully-vaccinated will need to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on or before the second day after they arrive in UK. With the removal of testing, the average family can save around Dh500 (100 pounds) on their travel plans to Britain, said the UK government.

Even then, those with imminent travel plans to the UK are seeking more clarity on the ground situation. “UK bookings are going up and so are visa enquiries, but most expats and tourists seem to be targeting February 18-19,” said a spokesperson for Regal Tours Worldwide. “This shows that people are still a bit hesitant and probably believe that restrictions could be re-imposed if COVID-19 situation worsens in the UK.

“There is some interest for summer-time travel too, particularly from corporate clients.”

Travel outlook turns rosier

The European holiday company TUI Group expects a strong summer this year, driven by pent up travel demand and lifting of worldwide restrictions. The company said that more than four times as many guests travelled with TUI in the first quarter of 2022 as in the same period last year. Revenue was five times higher than in the same period last year.

“The framework conditions for tourism have improved significantly, government measures are becoming more predictable and reliable, and the lifting of comprehensive restrictions has begun or is foreseeable in some markets,” said TUI in a statement. “The UK and Denmark are leading the way – this shows that travel has a high value for people,” it added.

Cheaper flights too

Emirates airline is offering a 25 per cent discount on tickets to the UK and a selection of other destinations. The booking period is February 7-14 for travel until May 31.

“Fall in love with travel this season and create new memories together,” said the airline on its website. “Fly Emirates with a loved one, family or friends and you’ll each enjoy 25% off your fare.”

Selected destinations include Amman, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Beirut, Cairo, Colombo, Istanbul, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Maldives, Mauritius, Moscow, Munich, Paris, Phuket, Seychelles and Zurich.

A one-way flight ticket from Dubai to London costs between Dh1,200-Dh1,500. From Abu Dhabi, Etihad Airways is charging around Dh1,300 for a flight to the British capital.

The UK’s early embrace of open travel may be partly responsible for putting the Dubai-London route back on the map. It was the third busiest air route in January with around 247,000 seats, according to OAG, an aviation consultancy.

Travelers cheer UK rollback

UAE-based British expats are excited at the prospect of traveling back home without any restrictions. “I love to travel so I’m really pleased to hear the UK is open, so I can pop back home and visit my family more easily,” said Laura Dunn, an Abu Dhabi-based PR professional. “I look forward to this trend continuing with other destinations too, so we can enjoy being in this convenient location in Abu Dhabi to travel worldwide.”

For UK travellers in general, the decision provides a big relief as they are already burdened by high fares. “At long last, those Day Two tests were a rip off,” said a user on Twitter.

“Great news, hopefully, we can (get) back to travelling abroad like normal,” said another on Twitter. A third user on the social media platform commented: “A much needed move and a boost for inbound travel. Any chance you could have a word with the US and ask them to do the same?”

Not everyone is on board with the decision. “How can this be a sensible move when we know fully-vaccinated people can still get infected and transmit the virus at alarming rates?” said a user.

Best pre-summer break

The return of passengers on the UAE-UK route will be a big relief for airlines reeling from the impact of travel restrictions. Australia, another major market in the Asia Pacific region, will also reopen to fully-vaccinated international tourists from February 21.

Australia, which had some of the world’s strictest border controls throughout the pandemic, is key to rebuilding ‘fifth-’ or ‘sixth freedom’ traffic. Carriers like Emirates airline and Singapore Airlines could be in a position to take advantage of fifth freedom agreements and operate multi-stop flights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *