Airlines the world over are notorious for idiosyncratic pricing – something that baffles me a lot.
Vagary No. 1 – More kilometers = Less Price
Dubai airport is the undisputed king of hub-and-spoke model. In 2018, passenger traffic in Dubai was ~90 million. A sizable number was transit passengers i.e. passengers travelling from West to East or vice versa using Dubai as a hub. Understandably, this is bread-and-butter for Emirates and the key reason for its size. Indeed, the same can be said about Istanbul, Abu Dhabi and Doha.
Dubai’s position as one of the largest hubs in the world leads to several inconsistencies in pricing. As an example,
A one-week return trip from Dubai to London in business class costs ~AED 14,500 (~USD 4,000). On the other hand, a one-week return trip from Mumbai to London (with stopover in Dubai) on identical flights, will cost ~AED 7,000 (~USD 1,900). And for good measure, during several months of a year, Emirates will throw in a 5-star hotel for a few days if you were to have an extended transit in Dubai.
As much as this pains me, it is largely understandable. In the Dubai-London-Dubai direct route, Emirates has little competition (British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and potentially Etihad). However, in the Mumbai-London-Mumbai route, Emirates has to compete with Jet Airways, Air India, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and also Qatar, Etihad, Turkish Airlines etc. Still, if you are a resident of UAE, it is natural to feel short-changed (I know I do).
Vagary No. 2 – Same kilometers = Different Price
While No. 1 is understandable, No. 2 is downright extortion. Emirates fares are vastly different depending on whether you are flying into Dubai or from Dubai. Suppose you are a Dubai resident and have two business trips planned to London in February separated by a week (This is not hypothetical, there are several people who travel frequently on business).
If you were to book Dubai-London-Dubai (March 7-14) and Dubai-London-Dubai (March 21-28) the total fare would be ~AED 29,000 (~USD 8,000)
However, if you book Dubai-London-Dubai (March 7-28) and London-Dubai-London (March 14-21), the total fare would be ~AED 25,000 (USD 6,600) i.e. about USD 1,400 less.
Please note these are the exact same flights and dates. Etihad and Qatar Airways also have similar discrepancies. I have no idea why the fares are different. Do you? Welcome your thoughts.