Airlines dangle sweet deals for off-peak travel

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Dec 14, 2013.

THERE is no better time to take off on a trip.

From less than $300 for short flights on Singapore Airlines (SIA) and other full-service carriers to about $500 for flights to cities in India and China, there are deals galore for budget-conscious travellers considering a vacation.

As the year-end holiday break draws to a close, full-service airlines are dangling sweet deals, with discounts of up to 40 per cent on normal fares, to get people to travel during the slow season from January to March.

Although airlines often offer discounts during off-peak seasons to fill seats, the deals have grown more attractive, said travel agents and aviation analysts.

Fare Deals

Airlines are cutting fares by about 20-40 per cent for off-peak travel.

Air France bullet $1,131-$1,360 to cities in Europe
Cathay Pacific bullet $281 to Hong Kong
Garuda Indonesia bullet $120-$250 to Bali, Jakarta, Surabaya and other Indonesian cities
Jet Airways bullet $366 to Chennai bullet $520 to Mumbai and Goa
Qatar Airways bullet $270 to Bali bullet $1,185 to Paris bullet $1,850 to Washington
Singapore Airlines bullet $238-$278 to Jakarta, Bangkok, Bali and other regional cities bullet $698 to Tokyo, Sydney, Melbourne, Seoul bullet $1,288 to Europe
Thai Airways bullet $428 to Hong Kong, Macau, Yangon bullet $1,038 to London, Paris, Milan, other cities in Europe

Source: Airline websites

The main reason is stiff competition not just among full-service airlines but also from budget carriers such as Tigerair and AirAsia.

Travellers keen to bask in the sun and sand in Bali, for example, have many options.

SIA is offering a promotional return fare of $278 while Qatar Airways has a $270 deal. Garuda Indonesia is offering an extra-special $130 fare.

These promotional fares are 20 to 40 per cent lower than the usual rates (see sidebar).

There are good deals for Europe too, travel agents and airlines said.

Thai Airways, for example, is offering starting fares of $1,038 on its website for travel to London, Frankfurt and Paris, among other European cities.

Qatar Airways is doing a special promotion for travellers here to mark a decade of flights to Changi Airport, said Mr Jonathan Zhang, its country manager for Singapore. Discounts are available for selected destinations such as New York and Paris, he said.

Mr Sentot Mujiono, Garuda Indonesia's vice-president for South-east Asia, said: "Usually, travel bookings are slower in the first quarter of the year - many Singaporeans have just returned from their year-end holidays and are easing back into work."

But there are folks who prefer to avoid peak periods, he said, noting that travelling off-peak means cost savings from discounted travel and fewer crowds.

Ms Alicia Seah, marketing communications director at tour agency Dynasty Travel, said: "There is a lot of capacity being added to the market with new flights and destinations, so you do find that airlines are offering good deals to attract travellers."

In addition, airlines are competing with cruise operators, which are bringing new and larger ships to Singapore, she said.

"The big winner here is the traveller," she added.

One traveller who is mulling over the offers is civil servant Amy Tham, 39, who is single.

"I have no kids and the last thing I want is to travel during the school holidays when everything is so expensive and it's crowded everywhere. I think the off-peak deals are great."

Said customer service manager Catherine Kueh, 50, who paid about $1,200 for a week-long package tour to China next month: "It's a good deal - three cities, meals, accommodation."

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Dec 14, 2013.

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