Air India may join 'low fare' price war to attract travellers

Air India

With major carriers slashing airfares following Jet Airways' offer of 20 lakh seats at Rs 2,250 for travel till the year-end, Air India today said it might join the competition to bag more air travellers.

However, the government does 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.

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

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."

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.

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