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Ramadan flights to Saudi 'performing strongly'

Increase in travel compared to last year, states BA and Emirates.
NEWS, Aviation

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Air travel bookings to Saudi Arabia during Ramadan are “performing strongly”, the two biggest carriers in the UAE told Arabian Business on Tuesday.

“Bookings to Jeddah for passengers embarking on the Islamic Holy pilgrimage of Ummrah are performing strongly, in line with our expectations. Our load factors are up seven percentage points on our flights to Jeddah over the same Ummrah period last year,” Hareb Al Muhairy, Etihad Airways’ vice president of UAE sales told Arabian Business.

Al Muhairy said bookings were predominantly coming from the UAE, the UK, the USA, Canada, Morocco, South Africa and Indonesia.

An Emirates Airline spokesperson told Arabian Business that “bookings to Saudi Arabia during Ramadan are extremely strong.” The Dubai-based airline added that bookings throughout Ramadan to destinations other than Saudi Arabia are also positive with strong bookings from the UAE expatriate market to destinations in the US, Australasia, Europe and across the GCC.

“Overall there has been a marked increase in travel when compared to Ramadan last year. This is primarily attributable to increased frequencies and a number of new route launches," the spokesperson added.

A spokesperson from British Airways said its “forward bookings throughout the Holy Month of Ramadan, both to Saudi Arabia and the wider GCC, are looking extremely healthy and we have also experienced significant increases in demand in recent months.”

The British carrier has also announced a series of discount offers to mark the start of the Holy Month of Ramadan. The discount fares will be available from August 12 to August 31, 2010, are valid for travel up until March 31, 2011 and will see return flights to Europe starting from AED2,255, and to the USA from AED3,655.

Emirates has also announced plans to implement several in-flight initiatives for fasting passengers. Flights departing close to Iftar will provide small snack boxes at the boarding gates. Passengers who are in-flight when the sun sets will be informed of the Iftar time by the captain and will be served large Iftar meal boxes. Iftar will be determined based on where the aircraft is located at the time the sun goes down.

Non-fasting passengers travelling on Umrah and Jeddah flights will receive a cold meal instead of the regular hot meal for all flights taking off after sunrise and before sunset, in respect to the many Muslim passengers completing Umrah on these flights.

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