UAE Abu Dhabi Dubai budget flights and cheap deals
How to find cheap flights to and from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, in the UAE with budget airlines such as Air Arabia, FlyDubai, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Wizz Air. Or special offers from other airlines including Emirates, Etihad, Gulf Air, Qatar Airways.
This is not a list of current special offers and flight deals to and from Abu Dhabi (AUH), Dubai (DXB, DWC), Sharjah (SHJ) - there are so many sources on the internet claiming to do that. This is information to help you find the best travel deal, or at least have some idea if the website or travel agent you are dealing with really is giving you a good deal.
- Real travel agents can be useful especially if trying to find a combination of flights and hotel bookings, or a group travel itinerary. They are generally good to go to if you know exactly which destination and which dates. If you don't care where you go or when you go, but just want a cheap trip somewhere, then you might find them less helpful unless you're a regular customer since that kind of request results in a lot of work for them.
- Airline websites - this is our preferred choice although we accept it is time-consuming. Which is why you'll find below a list of suggested airlines to try which hopefully means the many hours we spend trying to find them means you don't have to spend so many hours to find the best deal for where you want to travel to.
Online travel agents
- Flight aggregator websites or online travel agents which often appear high up in search results (opodo, edreams, tripadvisor, wego, lastminute, kayak, bravofly, ad nauseam ...) rarely seem to find the best deal in our experience, despite sometimes seeing the cheap prices in the results.
- Those cheap prices might be out of date, or have additional charges added on further into the booking procedure, or the agent is hoping to buy the tickets closer to your travel date for a cheaper price (leaving you with an unconfirmed booking). In other words they don't sell you a ticket, they sell you a promise to get you a ticket ... hopefully before you actually are due to fly.
- However they can be useful for finding possible flights and approximate prices, or indications of which airlines might be cheaper. Try a few different sites to find the one which is most user-friendly for you. Our favorites are:
- Another disadvantage is that most of them seem to require fixed travel dates, which might mean you miss a much better offer if your travel dates are flexible (unless you repeatedly search, changing dates each time).
- We prefer dealing direct with the airline (or a real travel agent), especially when buying something like airline tickets online. Although to be fair, to visit a number of different airline websites trying to find the best deal is very time-consuming.
- Sites such as skyscanner.net are not booking agents but link you direct to the website of the airline or agent offering the best price. Be careful since although they give the airline name, the link might yet take you to a suspicious or less than reputable online travel agent.
Airline reviews and ratings
Read about particular airlines on the website www.airlinequality.com, which usually has a good selection of customer reviews from passengers. Take the occasional negative one with a pinch of salt but take note if there are regular negative reviews of a similar theme.
Cheap flights to Dubai
For cheap flights to and from Dubai, try the more obscure carriers (probably less safe and-or less comfortable), or look for special offers from your travel agent. Emirates Airlines often do promotional flight and accommodation packages from Europe that are good value for money - especially as it's often difficult and/or expensive to find a hotel room in Dubai.
Note that taxes, fuel surcharges and service fees can often make up a significant proportion of the total cost, and are often not quoted in advertisements for cheap fares from Dubai. Allow an extra several hundred dirhams depending on where you're going.
Cheap flights from Dubai
TL;DR ... or if you're in a hurry: Try FlyDubai and Air Arabia first if your chosen city is one of their destinations. A direct flight is always much less hassle than adding stopovers. Then try Qatar Airways, the fare is unlikely to be cheaper but they are a full service airline for prices not much higher than budget airline airfares, and if you are going to do a stopover, Doha is a good choice since there are many flights per day between DXB and DOH so you're unlikely to be waiting more than a couple of hours between flights.
Websites advertising bargain fares or last minute fares may have some good package deals when flying to Dubai from other countries but for residents living in the UAE, it's rare to find a "flight only" that's cheaper than dealing with the airline directly. Sometimes airlines will have a small discount or extra airmiles if you book online. Travel agents in Dubai won't have flights much cheaper (if at all) but may have a better chance of getting you on to a heavily booked flight if you have a good relationship with them. Of course, they can save you time by doing all the searching for you, as well as arrange hotel, car hire and excursion packages. Don't get wound up when they say they'll call you back but don't. That's SOP in Dubai. Call them when you want to know what's happened to your booking.
For cheap flights from Dubai to other destinations try one of the following (watch out for extra taxes and fuel surcharges of several hundred dirhams which are sometimes included in the first price you see, sometimes added on at the end):
- Air Arabia for Middle Eastern and Asian destinations (from Sharjah Airport, not Dubai, and it's a long drive).
- Air India for Asian destinations (via India).
- Cebu Pacific - advertise cheap flights to Manila, The Philippines, and onwards to other Asian destinations. Very cheap fares often advertised for example one way DXB-MNL for AED 350 in 2014-2015 but that is misleading. Double for return, double again when taxes and surcharges are added, and then add some more for bags and meals. Or bring your own noodles and no luggage.
- FlyDubai - (first flights 01 June 2009) for Asia and Middle East, some European destinations also being added, budget airline operating from Dubai. Flies from DXB Terminal 2 which is on the other side of airport from Terminals 1 and 3, no easy metro access. Website deserves a thumbs up for making it easy to see prices on different dates in monthly view - excellent feature if price is more important to you than travel dates.
- Gulf Air for Middle East, Asia, and Europe (from Dubai or Abu Dhabi). Limited number of destinations in Europe.
- Jazeera Airways for Asian and Middle Eastern destinations.
- Norwegian Air Shuttle - apart from Wizz Air, probably the cheapest option to European destinations, and they fly from DXB not DWC. But possibly seasonal - no flights during summer months. Like Wizz Air though, watch out for all those hidden extras that can add up to a ticket price comparable to a full-service airline.
- Qatar Airways (QR) for Asian, Middle East and European destinations via Doha. Not budget like FlyDubai or Air Arabia, but usually cheaper than most other full-service airlines to the same destinations.
- Royal Brunei for Asian, Pacific destinations via Brunei, and European destinations via London.
- SmartWings Airlines to Prague, with connections to a few other European cities. Was also to Budapest but seems to be no longer available as a route choice from Dubai.
- Ukrainian International Airlines (UIA) - good range of European and CIS destinations via Kyiv (Kiev), often at better prices than many other choices. Onboard service not as good as Etihad or Emirates but perfectly acceptable. Website has a simple list of cheap return fares from Dubai, although when it comes to booking, it's rare to find any date when those bargain prices are available in reality. The monthly view does make it easy to find a cheap fare if you have flexible dates though.
- Wizz Air (Wizzair) - bargain basement prices, in theory, not so often in reality. Flies from Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) not DXB. As of 2014 only to Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia (flights to Kiev were planned originally). Return flight cost could be less than AED 1,000 but more likely to be AED 1,500-2,500 and only includes one small cabin bag. One, not one plus handbag or laptop bag or shopping bag, just one. Arrival and departure times not great, and you'll easily get tripped up by all the extra fees and surcharges, which could make your ticket as expensive as many other airlines - e.g. add AED 125-175 per bag for checked luggage. A taxi fare to the new airport could be 50% of one leg of your flight ticket price, but there are cheap public buses once an hour operating 24 hrs per day. Website is strange, it's easy to find the cheapest price for the outbound sector of your journey but clumsy for the return sector: either local currency for destination in flexible date view, or limited options in a more familiar currency. Additionally sometimes prices change considerably (increase) between the availability page and booking page if different currencies are shown, and going back to the availability page shows the cheaper prices again, as if they're trying to trick you somehow. No, we didn't mess up our currency conversions.
Other airlines to try, sometimes cheaper than Emirates or Etihad but not exactly budget.
- Air Berlin - don't waste your time thinking this is a budget airline. Perhaps it is within Europe but to get to a destination from Abu Dhabi it's much the same as most other choices, and not as cheap as the budget options which are available from Dubai. Probably because of the Etihad ownership and codeshare. At least there's a free Etihad shuttle bus from Dubai.
- Alitalia for European destinations. Not cheap, but not as expensive as Emirates or Etihad ... usually.
- Austrian Airlines - good range of European routes via Vienna, Austria. Difficult to find cheap options on website if you have flexible travel dates.
- CSA Czech Airlines - to Europe (might only fly from Abu Dhabi airport, check, sometimes Dubai flights available, sometimes not). Not cheap but not as expensive as Emirates or Etihad. Website seems to be clumsy or slow or both.
- Emirates (EK) - have regular special offers, occasionally some are actually relatively good value but only on competitive routes for example DXB-Moscow for less than AED2,000 but there are many Russian and CIS country airlines with much cheaper fares. Best deals with Emirates are their Cash Plus Miles offers for Skywards members, when available ... they used to have them monthly but after about 2012 they become less regulare, or possibly discontinued althogether (we haven't seen any since 2013).
- Etihad (EY) - special deals: not much generally, and if there are any they're usually only on very competitive routes for which you can easily find a cheaper flight anyway.
- Olympic Airways - to Europe via Athens, Greece. Not cheap but not as expensive as Emirates or Etihad.
- Pegasus Airways (PC) - various destinations via Istanbul, Turkey. Sort of a budget carrier, or marketed as one, but prices not really much cheaper than Turkish Airlines (TK) in our experience. Worth checking for possible cheap flights to Europe. Best feature is not so much the price but the good flight timings to some destinations if you want to maximise your time off - but check carefully, sometimes you can end up with a 12 hr stopover in Istanbul Airport.
- Turkish Airlines (TK) - sometimes cheaper to Europe than most full-service airlines but not by much.
The airlines in that list have reasonably large networks and often sell cheaper fares than other airlines on the same routes. There are other airlines flying out of Dubai that have even cheaper fares - they're normally ones you haven't heard of and/or fly out of Terminal 2 of Dubai International Airport.
The well-known airlines will have cheap fares but only at off-peak times, to odd destinations that no one wants to go to, or when launching a new route (occasionally things can go a bit wrong - Emirates were about to launch a new route to Copenhagen when those infamous cartoons made the headlines, so the launch of their Denmark flights were postponed a few years). Airlines advertising promotions in the UAE include Air France, Cathay Pacific, KLM, Singapore Air, Royal Brunei, British Airways to name a few. Other airlines have promotions also but it's more likely your travel agent will know about them. Emirates Airlines do monthly online special offers and also Cash + Miles deals for Skywards Air Miles customers, which have cheap prices to places you never thought you'd want to visit.
For bargain hunters looking for no-frills airlines like Ryanair or EasyJet, try Air Arabia flying out of Sharjah International Airport; Fly Dubai, Jazeera Airways, Norwegian Air Shuttle from Dubai International Airport (DXB); Wizz Air from Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC). Their prices are often cheap if you book well ahead, but not usually if you're trying for a last minute booking. At least that's what they say, however sometimes it seems that the reverse is true - perhaps when there's an empty plane they reduce seat prices significantly a week or two before the flight.
Special offers for flights from Dubai, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi
List of Dubai latest airfare deals moved to separate page. For latest offers not included that you know of, add them to the Dubai flight deals topic in the forum.
Last update Thursday 23-Oct-2014