BA slashes London fares; expect turbulence in skies

Written by Corporate Bureau | Mumbai | Updated: Mar 6 2009, 06:03am hrs
It just got cheaper to shop on Oxford Street. British Airways has slashed its basic fare from India to London to Rs 9,900 for bookings up to March 22. Slapping on taxes and airport charges, a return ticket will cost only Rs 27,000just slightly more than the cost of an Air India ticket. The fare is valid for a limited number of seats on outbound journeys undertaken until April 12 from New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore.

For private Indian carriers like Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines that have international flights, BAs move ahead of the busy season spells turbulence on one of the countrys busiest international travel sectors. Flights to London are estimated to contribute 15-20% to their overall revenues. Trade experts reckon nearly 30 million Indians throng to London every year.

However, a Jet Airways spokesperson said the airline offered tickets at Rs 11,900 plus taxes on Mumbai-London return tickets for bookings up to April 12. But FE found only a special fare, exclusive of taxes, at Rs 19,975 (outbound) and Rs 7,995 (inbound) on the Jet website for flights on March 9 and 10. Kingfisher, which launched its Bangalore-London and Mumbai-London flights recently, has fares starting at Rs 20,000, exclusive of taxes.

Air India officials, meanwhile, were unperturbed. Director (PR) Jitendra Bhargav said, We have fares at Rs 26,000 for a roundtrip to London. We have the lowest fares in the market and we do not have discounted fares for limited seats.

Industry experts say carriers like BA are cutting fares simply to boost yields. Since there is a dip in leisure, corporate and business travel globally, load factors are low on even an important sector like India-London, explains an analyst with a Mumbai-based broking firm.

BA operates 48 flights a week between London Heathrow and six cities in India. It has two daily flights to London from Mumbai and Delhi, a daily service from Bangalore, five flights a week from Chennai and Hyderabad, and three flights a week from Kolkata. Says Amanda Amos, BAs area commercial manager for South Asia: India is an important market for us.