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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mideast carriers slash fares as summer travel heats up

The summer travel period has just heated up even further as the Middle East’s big-three carriers – Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways – are indulging in a competitive price war, which is now turning into a boon for such travellers.
Last-minute discounted fares, family deals and two tickets for the price of one have all worked their magic to lure travellers to choose one carrier over another, while encouraging pessimists that a holiday now could very well be on the cards.
Aside from the 875 people who said they couldn’t afford a holiday, last week’s poll question, which saw over 2,500 people reveal their summer travel plans, had a 24 per cent agreeing that a vacation to Asia/Europe/Americas was scheduled, while the remaining 41 per cent saying their holiday will only comprise visiting relatives back home.
To entice such travellers, Emirates upped the ante earlier this week by announcing a 15 per cent discount to select destinations during June, a boon for people who, like most people in Dubai, leave their travel bookings until the last minute.
With the summer travel peak just around the corner we wanted to be able to offer our passengers an opportunity to travel for business or leisure at a reduced rate,” said Khalid Bel Jaflah, Emirates Vice President Commercial Sales UAE, in a statement.
Valid across 30 destinations, for passengers travelling in Economy Class and Business Class the offer is available for booking only up to June 20, with travel to be completed before August 31.
“The destinations included in the offer incorporate numerous continents spanning Europe, the Far East, the Middle East, Australasia, South Africa and the Indian Subcontinent,” he added.
However, the airline’s booking on its website was down today, with a member from its call centre saying that the technical difficulty could have been caused by the unprecedented surge in bookings since the discount offer was announced.
Emirates’ announcement though comes hot on the heels of Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, which last week announced its summer ‘Family Fares’ promotion, which offers a 20 per cent discount to families making outbound journeys in all classes from Abu Dhabi before June 24, and returning before September 15.
The fine print, of course, reads that a minimum of two family members must fly together to take advantage of the deal, one of which must be an adult.
Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways Chief Commercial Officer, stated: “We are always looking for ways to tailor our product to guests’ needs. The summer months are an extremely popular time for families to fly together, and we are happy to be able to offer them a deal with the Family Fares promotion that potentially reduces the expense of a holiday.”
Under the promotion, Etihad Airways will only match the published ticket price of airlines, which operate non-stop to destinations served by the Abu Dhabi-based carrier.
However, Qatar Airways’ two-day promotion in April, where travellers could nab two tickets for the price of one became so popular that the airline’s website crashed on the first day and the promotion was then pushed a day late to sort out technical difficulties.
Meanwhile, the Doha-based airline is still continuing its summer deals to select destinations such as Delhi, Mumbai, Colombo, Brussels and Stockholm with discounted fares.
“I can’t believe that I was able to get an Emirates flight for travel on July 1 to Mumbai for just Dh1,250, during peak season,” said Ashok Dalreja, a sales executive. “As soon as I heard of the 15 per cent discount, I grabbed the deal yesterday itself, before it was too late.”
Said Marwan Saeed, a father of two: “At the price of Dh945, I was able to grab the deal for Beirut for my whole family on Etihad and get a discount. It’s a relief on the pocket actually considering paying a full fare for four is not feasible since the last few years. A family vacation is just what we needed.”

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