Mumbai: Joining the low-fare war triggered by budget carrier SpiceJet last month, full service carrier Jet Airways on Tuesday announced special fares as low as Rs 2,250 for a single journey across its domestic network.
    
The airline has put 20 lakh seats on over 450 daily flights across 57 destinations on sale, for six days effective from February 19 under the offer, a Jet press release said here. Passengers purchasing these tickets can travel anytime upto December-end this year. The airline has introduced four different slabs for these one-way fares, based on the travel distance and the fares are inclusive of all taxes, the release said.
    
"This nationwide low-fare sales offer is a goodwill gesture to our loyal guests who will now be able to plan and schedule their travel much in advance, especially during the holiday seasons, while benefiting from these special fares," Jet Airways Group Chief Commercial Officer Sudheer Raghavan said.
    
Under the offer, the fare up to 750 km is priced at Rs 2,250, while for 750-1,000 km it is Rs 2,850. Similarly, the fares for destinations between 1,000 and 1,400 km are pegged at Rs 3,300 and above 1,400 km destinations are priced at Rs 3,800, the airline said. Earlier, SpiceJet had put 1 million seats on sale for Rs 2,103 apiece early January which generated a massive response from passengers.

AI may join the club

Joining the fare war, Air India on Wednesday said it might join the competition to bag more air travellers. However, the government did not expect the low fares to breach the lowest fare bucket given by the airlines to aviation regulator DGCA.
    
"We are watching the situation. Air India shall respond to this depending on how the situation develops," Air India CMD Rohit Nandan said here.
    
IndiGo and GoAir join the club


Budget carriers SpiceJet, GoAir and IndiGo jumped into the fray and began offering similar or lower discounts on select routes, after Jet Airways announced slashing domestic airfares on two million seats by more than half for travel through the year.
   
Cell to monitor fares: Ajit Singh


Asked whether these latest low fares would lead to a fare war and predatory pricing that could hit the bottomlines of the already troubled airlines, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said, "We don't regulate air fares. We are setting up a cell to monitor the fares, but monitoring is different from regulating the fares."
   
‘Veiled interest behind fare cut’


Commenting on the Jet move, industry sources, refusing to be identified, said "This move could be a smokescreen to divert attention from the Jet-Etihad deal which has developed some problems. At the same time, the decision (to slash airfares) could also be intended to shore up share prices which have dipped somewhat in the past few days."
    
Through this measure, they said Jet was seeking to attract passengers away from its rivals and raise an immediate cash buffer of about Rs 400 crore. Asked whether the DGCA would warn airlines against indulging in predatory pricing of air tickets as it had done when Kalanithi Maran-owned SpiceJet had offered ten lakh seats at Rs 2,013 for a limited period, the Minister merely said the fares would not be regulated and made more transparent.

After the SpiceJet move to slash fares last month, the aviation regulator had urged other airlines not to follow suit as such a practice could be harmful to their financial bottomline that was already in trouble.
    
The industry sources also said the Jet offer of 20 lakh seats at low prices for travel till December 31 may not be bought entirely as people don't plan way into the future. This had also happened with SpiceJet which could sell only about 40 percent of the ten lakh seats it had offered, they claimed and added that the current fare war could last only till February 24 as long as Jet offer lasts.
    
The industry sources said the high airfares throughout last year, caused primarily by the grounding of Kingfisher Airlines, had led a substantial chunk of passengers to opt out of air travel. This had led to negative growth in traffic for the first time since 2009. But the recent low fare offers by the airlines could lead to attracting these air travellers back to flying. The sources said the dip in fares would also help airlines to fill in the extra capacity they have introduced by getting new planes.

JPN/Agencies

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