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The sky's the limit

Smita Tripathi | May 17, 2003

The age of discount travel has arrived in India. Six months ago, Air Sahara led the way by slashing fares that left its opponents far behind in the skies.

Now, Indian Airlines and Jet Airways are aggressively cutting fares in a bid to attract the budget traveller.

The latest schemes on the anvil are Indian Airlines' Super Saver and Super Saver Golden Edge. Under the Super Saver scheme, the passenger gets four flight coupons which are valid for 90 days on which he can fly anywhere in the country.

The cost: Rs 25,000 for economy class and Rs 35,000 for executive class. Thus, an economy class ticket to anywhere in the country effectively costs Rs 6,250 while executive class costs Rs 8,750. Compare this to a Delhi-Bangalore economy fare which is Rs 10,895. Or the executive fare, which is Rs 16,240.

The Super Saver Golden Edge is a similar scheme except that, instead of four coupons, you get eight. Also, in this scheme, the last two coupons can be used to fly on the Indian Airlines international sectors.

The tickets are valid for 180 days and cost Rs 50,000 for economy and Rs 65,000 for executive class. Thus, an economy class ticket under this scheme too effectively costs Rs 6,250 while an executive class fare is Rs 8,125.

The good part is that both schemes are valid on all Indian Airlines and Alliance Air networks, including Leh and Port Blair. However, travellers must take a non-stop flight. What this basically means is that you can't take a hopping flight which has a longer route than a direct flight.

For example, if a person wishes to fly Delhi-Mumbai, he or she must take a direct flight to Mumbai from Delhi. You cannot take one which goes via Jaipur.

The scheme is valid between May 15 and August 15, 2003. This means that passengers must buy tickets during this period. However, if they purchase a Super Saver ticket on August 14, it will be valid for the next 90 days.

The scheme also allows frequent flier points. However, passengers will only earn 708 points per coupon for economy class and 1062 points for executive class.

Air Sahara also has similar schemes called the Super Sixer and the Sixer in the Air schemes. Under both these schemes, the passenger gets six tickets and the schemes are valid till October 16, 2003.

The Super Sixer is for executive class passengers while the Sixer in the Air is for economy class passengers.

Under the Super Sixer, the passenger can either pay Rs 58,000 or Rs 48,000. The Rs 58,000 ticket is valid on all sectors while the Rs 48,000 ticket is not valid on seven sectors -- including Kolkata-Bangalore, Delhi-Goa and Mumbai-Lucknow.

Similarly, under the Sixer in the Air scheme, the passenger can buy tickets for Rs 46,000 (valid on all sectors), Rs 40,000 (not valid on seven sectors), Rs 33,000 (not valid on 13 sectors) and Rs 24,000 (not valid on 17 sectors).

Air Sahara has also changed the apex fare structure. Its programme called 'Steal a Seat' lists different fares between destinations depending upon when the ticket is booked.

For instance, a Delhi-Mumbai ticket will cost Rs 6,111 if booked five to nine days before departure. The same ticket will cost Rs 5,400 if booked 10 to 14 days before departure and Rs 4,180 if booked 15 to 19 days before departure.

And if you pre-plan your trip a bit more and book the ticket 20 to 29 days before departure, it will cost you only Rs 3,700. That's not all. If the ticket is booked 30 to 45 days in advance, you save nearly 50 per cent as the ticket will cost you only Rs 3,400 (a regular Delhi-Mumbai ticket on Air Sahara costs Rs 6,725).

Jet Airways is also launching its Super Apex fares for the economy class. The scheme, which will be valid between June 16 and November 15, 2003 offers major discounts if tickets are bought 30 days in advance.

For example, a Delhi-Mumbai ticket will cost Rs 3,400. Right now, the normal ticket costs Rs 7,530 and the 15-day apex ticket costs Rs 4,180. Similarly, a Delhi-Bangalore ticket will cost Rs 4,700. Right now it costs Rs 10,895 while the 15-day apex ticket costs Rs 5585.

In all the schemes, be it Indian Airlines, Air Sahara or Jet Airways, the tickets are non-transferable. Moreover, the passenger must carry some form of identification like a passport, driving licence, voter's ID card or PAN card.

The tickets are also non-refundable. Cancellation charges are 50 per cent of the apex fare paid.

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