Airlines dole out attractive schemes to woo business travellers

As the global slowdown intensified, the airline industry felt the heat with a sharp drop in business and first class travel as companies resorted to video conferencing instead of having their officials fly.

However, in some good news for the beleaguered industry, the latest report of the global airlines body International Air Transport Association (IATA) has projected "early signs of an upturn" in the number of business class travellers, though it says the yields have not gone up.
According to the IATA, the drop in the number of international premium travellers in July came down to 14.1 per cent versus last year, compared with a 21.3 per cent decline in June. Excess premium capacity and changed corporate travel buying kept yields down 23 per cent and premium revenues down 35-40 per cent in July, the IATA's Premium Traffic Monitor said.
It said consumer confidence has been rising since February, pulling economy travel up with it. "Passenger numbers are now starting to turn up but there is a long way to go before activity returns to levels seen in 2007 and early 2008," the report said.

The report, however, added that the problem of low yield would continue with economic growth forecast remaining relatively weak.
Buoyed by this outlook, major global airlines have started offering varied range of incentives to promote high-end travel in the bad times. Global airlines have started wooing fliers back even offering discounts of up to 50 per cent for business and first class fliers.
Air India had offered a limited period 'Companion Free' offer for business class travellers in June for travel till October this year, while other Indian carriers are now considering doling out similar concessions to attract premium travellers. Jet Airways and Kingfisher had also slashed their premium class fares for a limited period earlier this year.
British Airways is offering its outbound business (Club World) passengers a one-way upgrade to its premium First cabin for free, a company spokesperson said.
The offer is available for outbound travel from Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore to the UK, the US and Canada and from Hyderabad and Chennai to the US and Canada, the spokesperson said, adding that tickets are on sale till September 30 for travel till January 31 next year.
The airline's Regional Area Commercial Manager (South Asia)Judy Jarvis said "this is a great chance for our discerning Indian customers to indulge themselves and enjoy unmatched service on board British Airways. ... This special offer will allow us to totally pamper our passengers."

The airline operates 45 flights per week from London, Heathrow, including double dailies from Mumbai and Delhi, a daily service from Bangalore and five times a week from Chennai and Hyderabad.
American Airlines is also offering low economy class fares and upgrades to higher classes of travel to attract business passengers. A company spokesperson said low-priced tickets can be available till September 30 for travel up to December 10.
The Air France-KLM combine would also soon offer a new travel option for its customers called Premium Voyager, which would be a new class between economy and business with the fares positioned between the two classes. The offer would come into effect from November on Air France and December in KLM.
Similarly, Malaysia Airlines is also attracting passengers through its Economy Plus scheme and business class 'Buy One, Get One Free" offer.
The Economy Plus scheme would allow a passenger to travel in business class at fares which are 30-50 per cent lower than the normal business class fare.

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