NEW DELHI: The new year has begun with a bang for overseas travellers. The new kid on the airlines block, Air Sahara, sought to set the tarmac on fire on Monday by announcing a Delhi-London return fare for Rs 10,000—the lowest ever offered by an airline, and that too, by a long margin.What’s the catch, you might ask. There are only 2006 economy class tickets on offer for Rs 10k (the New Year symbolism is obvious) and these tickets are valid for a year.Expect a wild scramble for them in the next few days. For those who miss out on this steal of a deal, Sahara is offering regular economy class Delhi-London return tickets for Rs 17,000.

Also, the Rs 10,000 price is the base fare and travellers will have to pay an additional Rs 7,500 as taxes, taking the net fare to Rs 17,500.

But then, the same tax is applicable on tickets purchased from any other airline. So, a Jet Airways’ Rs 18,000 ticket will be that amount plus taxes which will come to Rs 25,500.A British Airways Rs 24,000 ticket, similarly, will come for Rs 31,000. In short, Sahara’s is the cheapest deal on offer.For the Mumbai passenger though, an Air Sahara trip to London would include a minimum additional cost of Rs 8,400. The present discounted check fares for a Mumbai-Delhi flight is about Rs 4,200.

Moreover, the flyer from Mumbai would have to halt in Delhi before flying to London and vice versa. But as the current Mumbai-London fares hover around Rs 27,000 without taxes, it would be a good bargain even for passengers from Mumbai, says a source.

Experts wondered at the economics behind the deal, but also predicted a fierce fare war in the days to come. The Sahara discount is a stunning 60% lower than the average economy class fares offered by most legacy carriers on the same route.And the discount has come during peak season. Although most European and Gulf-based airlines operating on the sector refused to join the fare war, while saying they were fully booked for the next couple of months, some carriers—especially, new players in the sector like Jet Airways—are learnt to be mulling enticements for passengers.Jet has already introduced a scheme that offers its frequent fliers the option of winning free return tickets to London for a couple.

Said a Jet official: “Free tickets are available for all frequent flier programme members. They can avail of our discount fares on the website for booking tickets and also win free tickets to London under the scheme.”

Otherwise, the airline is offering economy class London return fares for Rs 18,000. This is the first time that the Indian air travel market is hot with a fare war in the peak travel season when demand generally outstrips supply.

“With more airlines getting permission to operate on the India-London route, the age-old phenomenon of fares creeping up during peak season no longer stands. It’s fare war all through the year now,” said Bird Travels executive director Ankur Bhatia.

By Anupama

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