This year, the fare war was started by SpiceJet on January 28, when it announced its “Super Sale” where it put 5,00,000 seats on sale at a starting price of Rs 1,499.
It might seem a flight of fancy — travelling from Delhi to Mumbai on an IndiGo flight for just R2,953. More so when you factor in that the average ticket in the sector costs more than R4,000, and if it is bought on the same day of travel, it can go up to R5,500.
But all’s fair in the ticketing wars, and it is not only for Mumbai that IndiGo announced what it calls “lower than low” fares to 12 destinations from Delhi — the cheapest being to Jaipur at just R1,499.
Nor is IndiGo the only carrier — GoAir, Vistara, AirAsia, Air India and SpiceJet have announced huge discounts to get passengers on board. In the last week of March, GoAir announced fares starting from R1,299 for passengers travelling between June 23 and October 31. This was the second discount offered in the week. The first offer had fares starting from R999. These sales, officials said, help book a few seats in advance, and as the date of travel comes nearer, the prices of the tickets are increased.
These deals help pack in those put off by high last-minute costs, especially on routes that have less traffic. “It is our focus therefore to advertise ‘book early and pay less’. So if you can simply plan your business or leisure trips in advance you can get the same seat for one-third the price. If you book a ticket on GoAir 60, 90 or 120 days prior to departure you will find they are cheaper than train fares,” said a GoAir spokesperson.
The first such sale happened in January 2013,by Jet Airways. In the last two years there have been a few more, but for the past couple of months the number of sales have increased, almost every alternate week. This year, the fare war was started by SpiceJet on January 28, when it announced its “Super Sale” where it put 5,00,000 seats on sale at a starting price of R1,499. SpiceJet’s booking went up by 400% on the first day of the sale. Since then it has had five more sales, including one it called “cheaper than train fare” sale.
Analysts said that previously sales were one-off, but since last year, and especially in the past few months, the competition between carriers have gone up. One reason is due to the entry of new airlines like AirAsia, Air Costa and Tata SIA’s Vistara. Once Vistara and Air Asia opened up sales, IndiGo and GoAir opened up another round sale in the last week of March.
AirAsia, which is known for its ultra-low fares, offered tickets as low as R550 for flights from Bengaluru to Chennai, almost half of what it costs for a Volvo bus travel on the same route. An AirAsia ticket from Bengaluru to Goa was for R750, inclusive of all taxes. Vistara offered 20% discount on premium economy and business class.
State-run Air India also participated in the price cut. It launched a massive sale of up to 50% in what it called the “Spring Sale”. Tickets between Mumbai and Delhi, which typically cost R6,000, were available for R3,000.
“The special fare is for the unsold inventory. A lot of impulsive purchase that happens when a sale is opened up, and the tickets are non-refundable,” said Sanjay Bhasin, CEO of goibibo.
He also expects the number of sales to go up because of the reduction of air fuel prices.