DUBAI // There can be no doubt that the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa offers an unparalleled view of Dubai. But it comes at a price - and yesterday that price almost doubled. For those who do not book in advance, or are too impatient to wait in lengthy queues for the standard Dh100 (US$27) tickets to the 124th floor observatory, At The Top, the price of fast track has been increased to Dh400 from Dh210 just four days after the tower opened to the public.
This makes it the most expensive city view by far among the world's tallest structures. It means the average cost for a family of four visiting Dubai's newest attraction and under time constraints is Dh1,600, against Dh350 for those who opt to queue, and that is before the Dh100 cost of official photographs and Dh10 for viewfinders. Hardest hit were tourists on short visits to the city who could not spare the waiting time. Among them were Siegfried Weis, 46, a manufacturing company manager, who was on a 24-hour stopover with his wife, Sabine, 43.
The pair arrived in Dubai on Thursday aboard a Costa cruise ship and had a whirlwind tour of the city before leaving last night. With just hours to spare, they decided to spend Dh400 each on fast-track tickets. "We did not have any other option," Mr Weis said. "It is extremely annoying to know we could have got Dh210 tickets a few days ago but what could we do? "We could save money by queuing but we do not have the time. This has saved us hours. Unfortunately there are enough people willing to see the top of the tower right now for them to get away with charging so much, but let us see whether there is still the same interest in six months."
After completing the tour, the Weises said they were disappointed with the experience. "I have been to the top of the Willis Tower, to 412 metres, and the observation deck here is not much higher," Mr Weis said of the building in Chicago once known as the Sears Tower. "I thought it would be at least 600m, but nowhere in the publicity does it tell you that you will not go that high." Peter Tyrell, 49, an engineer from the UK, was on a the final day of a four-day break and decided to buy an instant pass before he returned home. "I thought the cost was really high," he said, "but I wanted to make the most of my last day and the lovely weather. I felt I had to see the biggest tower in the world. I knew the tickets were at the lower price before and was not happy about paying Dh400. It seems very unfair."
Leon Volkerink, 29, and his wife, Elena, also 29, both property workers in the Netherlands, were not aware of the increase and paid Dh1,200 for themselves and their five-year-old son, Ilya. "We felt it was a must-do while we were here on holiday but we feel a bit cheated," Mr Volkerink said. "Our time was too precious to wait though, as we are leaving tonight." Brian McNenney, a 31-year-old American, said: "I am really upset to hear of the higher price. I felt it was costly but had no idea the tickets were at the lower price before. I came because I was in the area and did not know if I would get a chance again."
Dublin-born John O'Hara, 31, who works in a casino in Australia, opted to queue for a standard Dh100 pass. Four times the price of a normal ticket is harsh and far too expensive," he said. "When all you get is to skip the queue, it is not worth it. "I suppose those who can afford it will pay it, but most people will go for the sensible option of queuing. There are a lot of VIP opportunities in Dubai so I suppose it is fitting to have one for the tower."
Standard tickets costing Dh100 for adults and Dh75 for children between three and 12 are available from the entrance on the lower ground floor of Dubai Mall. They are stamped with a timed entry at 30-minute intervals to manage crowds. People are carried 28 at a time in a double-decker lift at 10 metres a second. The fast-track booth, where only a handful of people were waiting yesterday, is just inside the entrance and allows immediate entry. An online ticket booking service is not yet operational.
A source from Emaar Properties, developer of Burj Khalifa, said the cost of fast-track tickets had been deliberately bumped up to persuade visitors to pre-book the cheaper timed tickets. The Dh100 tickets may also soon increase in price, given that they had been advertised as an "introductory" offer. firstname.lastname@example.org