Indian families in the UAE are being priced out of trips back home as a summer surge in demand and the shutdown of a major airline cause fares to soar.
Travellers are being forced to fork out up to three times the typical cost for flights to many parts of the country, with travel agents admitting the price hike has prompted some customers to cancel their plans.
A combination of a reduction in numbers flights and high demand during the summer months – when many Indian expatriates fly home as the school term ends – is being cited as the reason for the inflated fees.
Jet Airways, India’s second-largest carrier, which operated flights to 60 cities, suspended flights in April due to a Dh4.4 billion funding shortfall.
Premjit Bangara, general manager at leading UAE travel agent Sharaf Travel, believed rising air fares could be explained by the “summer rush and the major demand in sectors like India and Egypt”.
Fares to cities like Trivandrum, Kochi, and Kannur rose by almost 30 per cent as did prices for Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai this month.
“India has been hit primarily because of the summer rush with children and parents going home. The sector is saturated with holiday traffic,” said Mr Bangara.
“Other carriers have benefited from the closure of Jet although it happened a while back. Fares that were Dh1,200 to Dh1,500 are now Dh3,000 to Dh3,200,” he said.
An Indian travel agent in Mussafah in Abu Dhabi said some families are paying close to Dh3,500 per person to travel to India.
“Since Jet Airways, the second-largest Indian carrier who were covering several routes shut down, passengers have been directed to other airlines and there is a shortage of seats.
“The airfare is very high right now because of school holidays.”
People traveling from Abu Dhabi to Coonoor, Calicut or Trivandrum in India are paying Dh1,700 for a one-way ticket whereas they could a return ticket for Dh1,200 during the off-peak season.
Industry experts said a family of four would have to pay close to Dh14,000 to travel to Kerala this week and return on September 1. In the off-peak season, the family could make the trip for Dh4,800.
Travel agents said some families have cancelled plans to travel home because of the expense while others are leaving later and coming back early before schools reopen.
Jomy Anthony, an Indian expatriate in Dubai, paid Dh2,408 for a Dubai-Kochi round trip for his wife, who flew earlier this week.
Air ticket prices are too high this year and I thought I overspent until I heard from friends who had paid even more to travel to India,” said Mr Anthony.
“This is just unfair to passengers because we have no choice but to go back home,” he said, adding that his friend had paid Dh3,309 for the same route this month.
Komal Prasad, an Indian housewife preparing to travel to Bangalore in southern India soon, paid Dh2,825 for her ticket and Dh3,105 for her husband.
“Air tickets are usually much lower and these high prices hurt families,” said Ms Prasad.
“People need to go for the holidays and have to pay up. We booked four to five days before traveling but others who made bookings weeks before also have paid high prices,” she said.
In June, The National reported that airlines in India were using the opportunity to add flights and increase fares after Jet Airways flights were grounded.
S Shah, an Indian expatriate in Dubai, spent close to Dh6,000 for tickets to Mumbai in May and July.
“The prices of tickets to India have definitely gone up by 15 per cent in the off-peak season and 25-30 per cent during peak seasons,” said Mr Shah.
He said that the high air fare affected his budget but advised families to plan ahead in order to get the best deals.
“Families travelling with children are getting affected by the airfare but others can plan their leaves in the off season.
“Those who can only travel during the summer break have paid at least 20 per cent premium if they did not plan their holidays a few months in advance.”