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Great airline holiday packages
Aabhas Sharma | February 04, 2006
Offering holiday packages to customers is not something airlines have started doing recently. Traditionally, it's happened during the off-peak season or when a new airline is entering a country. Air India has been doing it for many years for its corporate and business travellers.
So have several international carriers. However, the trend has really taken off after the inception of low-cost airlines and of domestic carriers flying internationally. And it is the international air carriers that are promoting themselves the most aggressively.
Take a look at some of the offers now available to the Indian traveller. Singapore Airlines offers you a three-day stay, including sightseeing, meals and other fringe benefits for a mere Rs 12,799. Lufthansa takes you to Munich for Rs 42,000 and offers a three-day stay there and sightseeing. Sri Lankan Airways has packages varying from Rs 15,000 for a two-day stay to Rs 1.5 lakh for a 14-day stay in Sri Lanka.
Cathay Pacific had a scheme that allowed passengers a free three-night stay in Hong Kong on the purchase of a ticket from Mumbai or Delhi to Hong Kong. These packages include everything from airfare to accommodation and breakfast.
But what is the main reason for airlines offering such packages? According to B K Ong, general manager, Singapore Airlines, "You will never find these packages during the peak season. It's only when airlines have spare capacity and they want to fill seats that they offer such packages."
His views are shared by Sharuka Wickramadittya, area head, Sri Lankan Airlines, "February to March is considered off-peak in India and to attract passengers they offer attractive holiday packages."
With more cities being connected and greater flight frequencies, Indians can get to nearby destinations like Singapore and Sri Lanka within just four to five hours and at very competitive rates. Says Wickramadittya, "We have different fares for different packages, which cater to all needs."
Distance is one reason very few European carriers, apart from Lufthansa, offer similar packages. And even if they do, they offer packages for midway destinations. KLM had a scheme where you were given a two-day stay in Dubai on your way to Amsterdam.
Similarly, Royal Jordanian has a scheme where if you take a flight to Washington, you get to stay one night in Amman, the capital of Jordan, where a stay in a 5-star luxury hotel and sightseeing is included in the airfare.
Kenyan Airways has a tie-up with the South African Tourism Board, and offers a seven-day package to South Africa for Rs 75,000, including three nights in Cape town, two in Sun City and one in Johannesburg.
The holiday packages can be extended by paying a little bit more. For instance, with a minimum stay of two nights in Singapore, travellers can complement their holiday beyond to Kuala Lumpur or Penang at the same fare or pay just an additional Rs 1,000 to Bangkok or Rs 5,000 to Bali or Jakarta.
While the international air carriers offer exotic locations, the Indian air carriers look at special occasions. For instance, during the holiday and festival season Indian Airlines had dropped its fares for Mumbai-Goa and offered holiday packages. Sri Lankan Airlines has had earlier tie ups with Tourism Malaysia and Stic Travels and offered packages to Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong and Maldives.
The packages come cheap as well at the end of the day. For instance, for Rs 14,300 SriLankan Airlines had a package which includes two nights in Colombo and two nights in Bangkok.
It had also launched a special 'cricket package' when the Indian cricket team had gone to play a one-day tournament in Sri Lanka in July. One had to shell out around Rs 14,000 for a three-day stay in Sri Lanka and a ticket for the match was included in the package.
So what are the factors that lure customers? Says Ong, "It is a combination of several factors. The pricing has to be really attractive, and the destinations as well." Wikramadittya feels the destination is very important. "If the passenger is attracted to a destination, he will go irrespective of price." He feels that pricing is important for holiday packages, but fringe benefits also come into play.
With regard to promotional activities revolving around the packages, the airlines adopt a basic approach. Says Ong, "We do the usual PR as well as basic advertisement activities and educate travel agents about offers." A similar approach is followed by SriLankan Airlines as well. With such offers available, it is the passengers who are having the last laugh.