DUBAI // Holidaymakers who have waited until the last minute to book flights for the Eid break will probably pay more and join long queues at the airport, experts warn.

But travel agents say there are still bargains to be found.

Travel agents are bracing for a flood of late bookings after the announcement that government workers will have the week between July 3 and 10 off to celebrate Eid Al Fitr. And they warn the cheaper tickets are quickly being snapped up.

“The coincidence this year of Eid and school holidays means many people had booked their flights well in advance to take advantage of cheaper fares," said Premjit Bangara, general manager for Sharaf Travel.

“But now many in the public sector know how much leave they have for Eid, we are expecting it to get very busy this week."

Mr Bangara said ticket prices were structured with a certain numbers of seats set at lower prices. “There is a misconception among the public that the airlines hike up prices for events like Eid.

“Once the cheaper seats have been bought, passengers will be offered the next cheapest fares and so on."

Mr Bangara advised anyone thinking of travelling to look at a range of airlines, and at destinations that are served by several carriers to get the best price.

Myriam Najm, 31, from Lebanon, said she was surprised by how expensive flights home were over Eid.

“I’m flying to Beirut with FlyDubai, which is supposed to be a cheap fare airline, and it still cost Dh1,900 even though I booked it two months in advance," Ms Najm said.

“I still think it was too much but other airlines were selling tickets for Dh2,500 and more."

The cost is compounded by the fact that the industry is now approaching its peak period.

“Prices at this time of year are higher in general compared with less busy periods, so that adds to the cost," said Conrad Caeiro, operations manager at Omeir Holidays in Abu Dhabi.

“Since the announcement of the Eid holidays we have seen an increase in people calling to ask about flights. The vast majority have booked well in advance so the cheaper seats are probably gone.

“There are still some bargains around but people need to book as soon as possible."

Popular destinations for last-minute customers are Georgia, Azerbaijan, the Far East, the UK, Germany and the US.

“We are seeing more Emiratis opt for the West Coast of the US to places like Los Angeles and San Francisco," said Mr Caeiro. “People are booking two to three weeks off and really spending a lot of time there."

Airlines are urging passengers to make sure they leave plenty of time to arrive at an airport and check in because of high demand.

About two million passengers are expected to use the Dubai airport over the weekends starting this Friday and on July 8, while Abu Dhabi Airport said 85,000 people would fly out over Eid.

“The traditional school vacation demand starting from the third week in June is around the corner, and we continue to see heavy demand on these flights," said Etihad.

With Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha falling in the summer peak season, the airline expected a significant increase in traffic.