Air Arabia opens return ticket bookings to Karachi, Peshawar
Emirates, flydubai, Etihad also planning to start bookings from next month
UAE airlines are gearing up to resume normal return flight operations in May and June with low-cost carrier Air Arabia opening bookings for its regular return flights to a number of destinations across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
Except Air Arabia, return flight schedules have not been made available as local carriers are still awaiting for the ease of restrictions on international flights from the UAE and other regulators around the world.
The low-cost carrier has opened bookings for regular return flights to Karachi, Peshawar, Mumbai, Delhi, Trivandrum, Dhaka, Colombo, Beirut, Cairo, Jeddah, Riyadh, Moscow and Vienna, among others, from June 1, 2020, reported Khaleej Times on Wednesday.
The Air Arabia flights will operate depending on the easing of restriction on international travel as well as approval from the authorities in UAE and other countries where it will be flying to.
Based on the flight schedule of departure on June 1 from Sharjah and return on June 10, Air Arabia's Sharjah to Mumbai airfare starts from Dh910 for an economy class, Dh1,055 to Trivandrum and Dh885 to the Indian capital New Delhi. It also opened booking for regular flights to Pakistan with starting airfares of Dh1,071 to Karachi and Dh1,452 to Peshawar, while return fare to Colombo starts from Dh1,261 and Dh1,448 to Bangladesh capital Dhaka.
Return economy airfare to Middle Eastern cities of Beirut, Jeddah and Riyadh starts from Dh1,259, Dh1,341 and Dh1,123, respectively. Similarly, Sharjah to Moscow starts from Dh1,381 and Dh1,699 to Vienna.
"Due to the directives and restrictions imposed by the authorities, Air Arabia was forced to cancel most of its flights till May 30, 2020. We continue to monitor the situation and will inform the relevant passengers of any change regarding their flights," the Sharjah-based airline said on its website.
Previously, flydubai had also opened bookings to certain destinations subject to easing of restrictions on international flights. Flydubai website also showed outbound flights to Mumbai from May 21 with fares starting from Dh1,263 and to Karachi from June 12 with airfare starting from Dh725. In addition, it is operating special flights to Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegevonia, Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Tajikistan and Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways is already operating special repatriation flights to a number of European and Asian destinations. It is looking to resume flights from May 16 but the booking is still open for one-way tickets only. Passengers can book one-way ticket to Beirut for Dh1,734 from June 8, Dh1,334 for Karachi on June 16, and Dh1,643 for Mumbai. Flights to some cities such as London will operate on a more regular basis while other routes will have special flights only.
Emirates has also announced that it will be operating limited passenger flights to carry travellers outbound from the UAE to some destinations up to June 30, 2020. But its website showed that passengers can book outbound ticket for Mumbai from July 1 for Dh1,820 for an economy class and Dh1,130 for Lahore.
Saj Ahmad, chief analyst, StrategicAero Research, said the first challenge is getting regulatory authority approval from the UAE to initiate regular flights.
"Secondly, there's no way Air Arabia or any other UAE airline can re-establish its pre-Covid-19 network at the drop of a hat. That will take weeks, paced largely by consent/permission to the countries that they serve. If anything, as we have seen with Emirates and Etihad, piecemeal flights to selected city points will likely be the new norm because it's far too premature to suggest that Covid-19 is under control because it simply isn't," said Ahmad.
With Covid-19 cases still very high across Europe, Africa, Asia and North and Latin America, he noted that no one will be lifting the closures to allow full uninterrupted flight services.
"With the selected destinations served by Emirates and Etihad, it's likely flydubai and Air Arabia will follow this same path until nations determine whether it's safe to increase flights in line with accommodating social distancing measures. That could be many months away," he added.
The UAE's civil aviation authority suspended all inbound and outbound passenger flights and the transit of airline passengers in the UAE on March 22 as part of the precautionary measures taken to curb the spread of the Covid-19. But cargo and special repatriation flights by Emirates, flydubai, Etihad and Air Arabia remain operational.