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Global airlines in marketing dogfight over India

Published on .

BOMBAY -- Global airlines are engaging in a marketing dogfight for India'sinternational travel market, one of the fastest growing in Asia and alsothe most competitive.

Companies are falling over themselves to offer bigger and more imaginativeincentives to capture a larger piece of the sector, which is growing at 8%annually.

Royal Dutch KLM is to cut fares by 35% on all return-ticket flights to theU.S., Europe and Canada which originate in India. The promotion coincideswith the Hindu new year celebrations in October and November.

Germany's Lufthansa, which earlier turned its back on cash discounts andinstead offered freebies like CD players and cameras, has fallen in withthe rest: it is offering $280 off economy-class flights till December 31."Some airlines may have lower airfares - because they should. Lufthansaoffers you the quality service you expect, at a price you don't expect,"runs the ad in The Sunday Times of India, Bombay, via Rediffusion-DY&R, NewDelhi.

India's state-owned airline Air-India, currently market leader, has goneone step further and picked out women travelers for promotional attention.Collective bookings of four women to certain Middle East and SoutheastAsian destinations get a 30% discount on the return-ticket, economy fare.The airline has begun a new campaign via Hindustan Thompson Associates,Bombay, stressing its renewed emphasis on punctuality and productimprovements.

But British Airways' scheme is the most maverick of all. "The older youare, the less you pay," offers the ad in The Times of India's Bombayedition. All westward-bound air travel from India entitles one of twopassengers booked together a discount equivalent to his or her age.

"A 54-year-old, for example, gets 54% off, and we'll go as high as 70%,"says the copy in the ad by M&C Saatchi Agency affiliate PressmanAdvertising, Bombay. "It's for a limited time only...so don't wait tillyou're very much older."

India's international air travel market is 22% held by Air- India, followedby Lufthansa at 10%, British Airways at 10- 12%, Singapore Airlines at8-10%, Royal Dutch KLM at 7% and Air France at 4%, according to industryestimates.

Copyright September 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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