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UAE air travel ‘to return to pre-Covid levels in 2022’

UAE air travel ‘to return to pre-Covid levels in 2022’

The scrapping of the rules that meant passengers had to take a pre-arrival PCR Covid test could see the numbers of people flying to the UAE jump back to pre-pandemic levels, say industry experts.

The government announced that fully vaccinated travellers now longer have to take the test, and can enter the UAE if they have proof of vaccination.

The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) said passengers will just need to download the approved QR code, although unvaccinated passengers will still need to have a negative PCR test within 48 hours of arrival.

“The UAE has become the latest nation to pull back its pandemic entry restrictions at the right time. For fully vaccinated travellers from across the globe to visit the United Arab Emirates is going to be much more convenient – even for a longer stopover. It will boost the confidence to travel to Dubai for leisure or business,“ said Linus Bauer, founder and managing director, Bauer Aviation Advisory.

“Additionally, the good news will accelerate Dubai towards becoming a preferred global MICE destination for business travellers during and after the post-Omicron recovery.”

He added: “In times of rising airfares linked to increasing jet fuel prices, the removal of the PCR test mandate will be a financial relief for fully vaccinated travellers. With the support of the ongoing vaccine rollout and removal of strict entry requirements in various parts of the world including the UAE, we expect airfare will keep rising from March onwards, reaching similar pre-pandemic levels.

“Between March and August, airfares for international flights are expected to increase by 4% on average each month, leading to an overall increase of 24% in air fares in August, the peak of the busy summer period in the Northern Hemisphere.


‘Massive deterrent’

For the past two years, travel to the UAE has been just 37% of what it was before the Covid-19 outbreak.

Olivier Ponti, VP Insights of ForwardKeys, an aviation analytics firm, said: “The requirement to take a PCR test has been a massive deterrent to travel in two respects. First is the degree of uncertainty it injects into anyone’s travel plans; second is the cost, which can amount to well over $1,000 for a family of four, if testing is required in both directions.

“As of 1 March, flight bookings for travel to the UAE in March, April and May stood at 76% of pre-pandemic levels. I expect that this news could help them climb to near pre-pandemic levels, considering bookings for arrivals in March are currently at 80% of 2019 levels already,” he told the Arabian Business website.

The move comes as nationwide regulations have been relaxed too for close contacts of those with Covid, with quarantine now no longer necessary.

People who test positive will still have to quarantine but measures such as the tracking wristband used in the capital Abu Dhabi will no longer be needed.