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Air India keeps low-fare party running

Source : BUSINESS_STANDARD
Last Updated: Tue, Oct 23, 2012 21:12 hrs
AI pilots threaten to go on strike over non-payment of salaries

On the busy Mumbai-London flight route, it is a season of discounts. And, Air India is keeping the party running. Struggling to fill its flights, the airline is offering all-inclusive economy return fares of Rs 42,000-44,000 on this route.

The Mumbai-London route is a competitive one, with Air India, Jet Airways and British Airways accounting for five flights daily. All these airlines operate Boeing 777 aircraft that have 240-340 seats.

Now, the competition is heating up, with Virgin Atlantic set to launch a flight on this route later this month. This had triggered a price war among the carriers. However, while other airlines have stopped offering discounts on fares (they now stand at Rs 60,000 or more), Air India continues to offer discounts. The airline is offering low fares for flights to London till November 7 for travel till December-end.

"Fares have been dropped because loads are light. We have kept a window of sale that is longer than others. Our London flights were normalised last month and we are keen to attract passengers," said an Air India executive.

The airline's international services were crippled for about three months, owing to a strike by pilots. The services were gradually restored on key sectors.

Air India plans to introduce the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the London route from mid-November. Currently, the airline flies the Boeing 787 to Frankfurt and Dubai, as well as on domestic routes. "The response to our Frankfurt flight was good and the business class was full on the first Boeing 787 flight," the executive said.

Another reason for the low fares in the October-November period is a lean season for travel on this sector. "It is a shoulder period. Outbound travel to Europe usually ends in October and arrivals from Europe and the US are most in December. But such discount fares are marketing gimmicks. Only a few seats are on offer and sometimes, the fare is available for a one-way journey alone," said a travel agent.

Last month, Virgin Atlantic had reduced fares as part of its inaugural offer. The airline is keen to grab market share on the route. After it began selling return tickets on the Mumbai-London route for about Rs 50,000, it reduced the fare to about Rs 42,000. Jet Airways and British Airways, too, sold tickets for travel till November 16 at the same price as Virgin, albeit for just three days.

Now, they are selling tickets at normal rates. Virgin, too, is offering its inaugural fare of Rs 50,000 on the Mumbai-London route.

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