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Fly-cheap offers take off

New Delhi/Mumbai, Jan. 21: Indian carriers, including Air India, today triggered an all-out fare war offering limited-period low-priced tickets across several sectors within the country.

Low-cost carrier SpiceJet was the first to offer a 50 per cent discount on base fares on tickets booked on select flights at least 30 days prior to travel.

The booking window is open for three days (January 21 to 23) and the cheap tickets are meant for travel between February 21 and April 15 — a period that the airline industry dubs as the slack season.

SpiceJet’s no-frill competitors — IndiGo and GoAir — have slashed fares by 30-50 per cent for advance purchases on its websites.

Air India joined the fare war by launching a short-term “Spring Sale” of up to 50 per cent off on all domestic sectors of its network. Jet Airways is yet to join the race, its spokesperson said.

Air India’s promotional scheme will be on between January 22 and 24 and be valid for travel between February 21 and April 15.

The fares, which would be as low as Rs 1,357 (including taxes), would cover all domestic sectors of the carrier and can be booked both on and offline.

The fare on the Agartala-Calcutta route will be Rs 1,385, between Delhi and Mumbai Rs 2,830 and on the Delhi-Ahmedabad circuit it will be Rs 2,292, inclusive of taxes.

Travel portals reported an immediate upswing in bookings within a few hours of the announcements.

MakeMyTrip claimed it saw a 250 per cent rise in bookings within hours of the prices being reduced, with its chief executive Rajesh Magow saying, “We expect this to go up even further as word about the offers spread.”

He said after the success of similar promotions last year, “airlines seem to have hit on a winning formula to energise the sector”.

“Such a limited period off-season sale is a routine practice in the airline industry across the world and a tactical inventory management to help airlines fill seats that would otherwise go empty. It is revenue-positive for the airline,” a SpiceJet spokesperson said.

Under the offer, SpiceJet is offering fares as low as Rs 3,579 for the Mumbai-Delhi route where spot fares are as high as Rs 10,098, while a Delhi-Goa ticket comes at Rs 3,355 where the spot fare is about Rs 6,000 now.

Spokespersons for IndiGo and GoAir were not available for comments, but travel agents confirmed that these two airlines have also launched similar offers.

However, industry experts believe that passengers would really benefit when more players such as AirAsia and Tata-SIA enter the market.

“When the new entrants start operations it would have a positive and long-term impact on the market. Right now it is a seasonal phenomenon .... as we have seen last year the airfares have been exorbitant during peak seasons. New entrants can help in controlling that,” said Sharat Dhall, president of travel portal Yatra.com.

Last year, AirAsia had offered 20 lakh free tickets on international routes within Asia from India.

 
 
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