Riyadh and Cairo emerge top destinations for flights from Dubai after India, UK cut off

Stock Dubai airport
Travel within the Gulf is on the rebound and Dubai and Riyadh airports are right at the centre of it. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Flights from Dubai to Riyadh and Cairo have climbed to be among the busiest in the world this month as services to Indian cities and London remain curtailed. In June so far, Dubai-Riyadh air route has been the fourth busiest with 165,334 seats, while Cairo-Dubai took 10th spot with 114,045 seats, according to aviation data firm OAG.

Meanwhile, the Jeddah-Riyadh sector is the ninth busiest domestic airline route. “The majority of flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi are going to Cairo, Male, Dhaka and even to Delhi and Mumbai,” said George Ferguson, aviation analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “The [flight] additions are small to places like the Maldives, Istanbul and the Philippines.”

The world’s busiest routes for now are between Simferopol in the Ukraine and Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, with 315,835 seats. This was followed by Moscow Domodedovo-Simferopol with over 291,000 seats. The Orlando-San Juan route in the US came in third at 182,499 seats.

Deep decline

Bookings to travel from the UAE to the Subcontinent have plunged 70 per cent since April 23 when the suspension of inbound flights from India was first announced, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). International bookings to the region (from the whole world) declined 47 per cent during the same period.

Flights from India to the UAE are suspended until July 6. “The traffic flows from India and the Subcontinent over the Middle East and into Europe and beyond had been one of the great successes for carriers in the region,” said IATA Director-General Willie Walsh. “Evidence shows that the situation is coming under control.”

New routes emerge

Passenger numbers on certain routes are expected to rise due to the setting up of air travel corridors between UAE and several European countries. Emirates airline had announced passengers will be able to fly to Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Spain, and France from June 9 without having to quarantine on arrival.

Dubai’s flagship carrier added that it will operate over 280 weekly flights from Dubai to cities in Europe, US, Middle East, Africa, and other popular island getaways from July.

Hurdles to cross

However, the absence of the two main markets – UK and India – will weigh heavily on airlines. Abu Dhabi has removed the UK from its ‘green list’, thus requiring all travelers flying in from the country to go through mandatory quarantining.

“It doesn’t make things any easier for travel plans or for airlines – UK itself has an almost non-existent green list,” said John Strickland, Director of JLS Consulting. “And with the rise there of COVID-19’s delta variant infections, it finds itself unwelcome for outbound travel by a growing number of countries.

“Summer is the key earning season for many airlines – but it is well on the way to being wiped out for a second year.”