ABU DHABI // The choice for commuters travelling between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is bleak – hunker down for the 150km drive, shell out Dh250 for a taxi or take a slow, inconvenient bus.
But what if you could bypass the rush-hour race in a plane?
Starting on Thursday, domestic airline Rotana Jet will offer three round-trip flights a week from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, aimed at tourists and business travellers. The half-hour flight will be cheaper than a taxi – with one-way fares from Dh150 – and take a third of the time.
“We have been approached by quite a lot of tour operators in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to provide connectivity between the cities,” said Rajendran Vellapalath, the airline’s commercial and planning director. “They get quite a lot of international tourists who want to visit both cities.”
The new route is just the start, with daily commuter flights from Dubai to Abu Dhabi on the horizon, Mr Vellapalath said.
“When it progresses, we will be introducing daily flights, originating from Dubai,” he said.
How much time commuters save will depend on their location, but a key advantage will be avoiding the stress of high-speed lane weaving, Mr Vellapalath said.
“I commute every day between Dubai and Abu Dhabi and I know the stress, how much time it will take,” he said.
Ammar Alaradi, who is from Bahrain and drives from Dubai to Abu Dhabi three times a week, said he would consider flying once a week or so. But, he said, the flight should be treated like a shuttle, “where you just go to the airport and buy a ticket there”.
“If they’re going to handle it like a normal airport where you buy your tickets beforehand and show up an hour before, it’s not going to work.”
The convenience of a commuter flight will also depend on where people live, said Mr Alaradi, 31, who lives in Dubai Marina – a long drive from Dubai International Airport.
“If I was on the other side of town, near the airport, it would be useful.”
The flight starting this week will take off from Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Airport at 9.25am and land at terminal two of Dubai International Airport at 9.55am on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Return flights will depart at 4.15pm and arrive in Abu Dhabi at 4.45pm. Travellers will need to arrive at the airport about half an hour early to check-in.
“From our experience it only takes half an hour … because there is no immigration,” Mr Vellapalath said.
Also on Thursday, the airline is introducing a flight from Dubai to Sir Bani Yas Island three times a week from Dh200 one way, “purely targeting the tourist market”, Mr Vellapalath said.
Rotana Jet already operates a flight to Sir Bani Yas Island from Abu Dhabi, which is typically 80 to 90 per cent full, he said. Its flights between Abu Dhabi and Fujairah are 60 to 70 per cent full, he added.
“Though these destinations started with the tourist market in mind, eventually they develop into both commuter as well as business traffic,” he said.
“We do have people who travel regularly with us. For example we have a weekly pass for daily travellers to Fujairah. We have 15 to 20 regular commuters who travel on this flight.”
Source: The national