x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Beat the summer airfare price hike

Consumer Watch: Peak-time cost of some flights out of the UAE triples, but experts say there are ways to beat the system. Take our poll.

Boarding that planes is set to get more expensive this summer, can you beat the traditional price hike?
Boarding that planes is set to get more expensive this summer, can you beat the traditional price hike?

ABU DHABI // Amber Dale never plans her journeys home during the summer because of the skyrocketing airfare prices.

The business owner's flight to Mumbai usually costs between Dh1,100 and Dh1,400 - but it can jump to Dh3,500 in the summer.

"Airlines simply cash in on the holiday season, whether it's summer, Christmas or Eid," she said. "Ticket prices are so unreasonably hiked, and flights are always jam-packed. The journey is never pleasant."

With ticket costs that almost triple for some carriers between June and August, Ms Dale is not the only traveller outraged by exorbitant prices for flights during the summer.

But the hike in prices is considered "normal" by industry insiders.

The price fluctuations boil down to the economic principle of supply and demand - a principle first observed by Muslim scholars, says economist Hamid S. Hosseini.

In his book Contributions of Medieval Muslim Scholars to the History of Economics and their Impact, he quotes 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah who explained: "If desire for goods increases while its availability decreases, its price rises. On the other hand, if availability of the good increases and the desire for it decreases, the price comes down."

"Fluctuation is normal," agrees Hubert Dhanpal, the UAE sales manager for travel management company ITL World.

He said the only way to avoid high prices is to take advantage of offers through travel agents

"I'd recommend relying on advanced purchases, in March or April, because in June or July, flying to some parts of the UK and the US can cost up to Dh10,000, if not more," he added.

Abu Dhabi's Al Badie Travel Agency has deals with Etihad, Qatar Airways and Gulf Air. "We have deals that are up to 15 per cent cheaper," said Nimi K, an agent at the company. "But you need to book early, at least 20 days before departure."

Sana Pervez, a Pakistani who lives in Dubai, flies home about three times a year.

Last year, she and her husband switched to no-frills airline FlyDubai, and felt much happier with a price tag of Dh1,800 for two over Eid. "We took Emirates twice and FlyDubai once last year," said Ms Pervez, who has lived in the UAE for a year and a half.

Planning in advance is key, she said. She tries to buy her tickets at least four months before departure. But it is not always an easy feat. "For me, it's not a problem but for my husband, [work] is not organised and they can be very difficult at times," said Ms Pervez.

Basil Kaedbey, from Lebanon, says the situation is worse in Abu Dhabi because there is no budget airline option. "I'm going to Beirut on July 1. I usually pay Dh1,400 to Dh1,600 with Middle East Airlines if I book six months in advance," he said. "But if I don't, I pay Dh3,000.

"It's a hassle because I'm not always sure about my dates because of work."

But even for people like Mr Kaedbey, there are ways to get around seasonal prices. If your dates are flexible, try booking late: airlines such as Etihad offer weekend getaways specials if you are willing to book within days of departure.

Use websites such as Kayak, Momondo and Skyscanner to compare prices across airlines, or bid for tickets on auction sites such as Skyauction.com and Priceline.com.

Above all else, make us of frequent flyer programmes such as Etihad Guest and Emirate's Skywards. The programmes are free and air miles do add up to create real savings.

cmalek@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by The National staff

To register a complaint about an airline, call the consumer protection department at the Ministry of Economy on 02 613 1111.???