Premium airlines step up dogfight for business

To mark its 70th anniversary this year, SIA has slashed fares for both long- and short-haul flights as well as for business- class travellers.
To mark its 70th anniversary this year, SIA has slashed fares for both long- and short-haul flights as well as for business- class travellers.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

They offer cheaper fares as they also battle low-cost competitors to stay aloft in industry

It is a good time to fly with premium carriers like Singapore Airlines (SIA), Etihad and Cathay Pacific as they lure travellers with super deals.

SIA has slashed fares - with short flights going for under $200 - to boost passenger numbers as it marks its 70th birthday this year.

The current sale, which also includes fare cuts for long-haul flights and in business class, is one of SIA's most aggressive in recent years, said industry analysts. Other carriers such as Etihad and Qatar are offering major discounts, with return tickets to Europe for about $1,000.

Besides offering flights to cities like Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Jakarta for under $200 return, with taxes and other charges included, SIA is selling tickets to destinations in India and China for under $500 and in Australia for under $600.

There are some conditions attached, though. For example, the special fares do not apply to popular flights such as morning services to KL and Jakarta.

A spokesman for Chan Brothers said recently airlines had been extending promotional fares, with savings of more than 20 per cent on average for long-haul flights and up to 15 per cent for short-haul ones.

The company, which is taking part in this weekend's Travel Revolution Fair at Marina Bay Sands, is selling SIA tickets to Perth from $470, Seoul from $570 and Wellington from $970. "The fares same time last year were about $570, $670 and $1,070, respectively," said the spokesman.

A few years ago, there was no way you could pay under US$1,000 for an SIA flight to Singapore, but now, it's possible. It shows how competitive the industry is, which is great for travellers.

UNIVERSITY STUDENT RUSWIN SANDHU, 22, who lives in Los Angeles

SIA would not say how the response has been from customers so far, citing commercial sensitivities.

A spokesman would say only that fares are a function of supply and demand; they might move up or down over the year for various reasons. Good times or bad, "there are always deals and savings to be mined for the prudent traveller", she added.

The competitive landscape over the past few years has been great news for travellers, who continue to benefit from attractive fares as airlines battle it out to win customers.

Private tutor Alan Wong, 24, said: "SIA is usually out of reach for many young people so the deals are quite attractive, especially to cities in the region. It's about the same as what you'd pay on a budget carrier."

With demand for air travel, especially in the Asia-Pacific, on the rise, premium carriers are fighting with budget airlines as well as one another to grow market share.

University student Ruswin Sandhu, 22, who lives in Los Angeles, said: "A few years ago, there was no way you could pay under US$1,000 (S$1,400) for an SIA flight to Singapore, but now, it's possible. It shows how competitive the industry is."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2017, with the headline 'Premium airlines step up dogfight for business'. Print Edition | Subscribe