DUBAI: Fears over the spread of the coronavirus is leading to emptier planes, sending airline shares down to fresh multiyear lows and handing carriers their biggest challenge in a generation.
Some airlines are pausing hiring, offering unpaid leave and cutting flights to reduce costs as the virus spreads. US airlines, which analysts consider among the best in the world to weather a crisis, have dropped more sharply than the broader market.
One side effect of the decline in air travel demand: bargain fares. The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in a dramatic reduction in airfares from the UAE to various destinations across the world. Airlines have also agreed to waive fees, cancel bookings with a full refund, and offer a free-of-cost change in flight, foreign media reported.
Three of UAE's major airlines -- Emirates, Etihad and Air Arabia -- have announced fee waivers for changes to bookings made on or from March 7 until the first week of April. Emirates, for example, has offered bonus tier miles and reduced tier travel requirement to help Skywards members retain their status.
A search for return air ticket prices on the travel company website skyscanner.ae from March 13 to March 20 to Kerala's Kochi, for example, is at Dh698 on Air India and Air India Express. Emirates is offering tickets for Dh895 towards the same sector. Tickets to Mumbai are at Dh660 and to Karachi from Dubai on thesame dates are at Dh862 (Rs36,496). Similarly, air ticket from Karachi to Dubai this week costs from Rs26,000 to Rs28,000, and from Islamabad to Dubai costs approximately Rs35,000 to Rs37,000.
Tickets to other sectors have also dropped considerably as a stop-over flight to New York on Saudia Airlines is Dh1,938, (Rs82,000) and a direct flight on Emirates is Dh4,225 (Rs180,000). The usual fares to this sector so close to departure are priced at Dh4,900 (Rs207,000) and above. Similar price drops have been noticed in flights out of Sharjah and Abu Dhabi airports as well.
Mamoun Hmedan, managing director, MENA and India of Wego, a travel booking website, said, “The average airfare dropped by five per cent year-over-year. However, a lot of airlines are offering discounts and deals to make up for the decline in demand.”
He explained, “According to our data, UAE travel demand seems to be the least affected among the GCC countries. We see a drop in search from UAE to China and North Asia and Southest Asia countries and an increase in the number of searches to India and Egypt by 40 per cent.”
Source: The News Pakistan