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Air Sahara fires the second salvo in air fare war

By , agencyfaqs! | In | August 20, 2002
With the 'Steal a Seat' campaign in alliance with Indiatimes, the airline is targeting the upper strata of rail travelers, comprising small businessmen, entrepreneurs and professionals


Once upon a time, for the average middle-class family, even the thought of flying was considered an indulgence. Trains were more realistic. However, after Air Sahara's online auction on indiatimes.com, such aerial fantasies have approached reality. Now with its second salvo, the 'Steal a Seat' campaign in alliance with Indiatimes, the airline is targeting the upper strata of rail travelers (small businessmen, entrepreneurs and professionals) 'to make flying a habit'.

The deal would help passengers organise their trips at throwaway prices. Slated for launch on August 26, 'Steal a Seat' will have about 10 per cent of the airline's unsold seats auctioned at a price as low as Re 1. The idea behind the 'Steal a Seat' campaign, which is part of Air Sahara's 'dynamic inventory model', is improving the airline's reach and filling up its vacant seats. "Theoretically one can travel Delhi-Mumbai in just Re 1," says Mahendra Swarup, CEO, Indiatimes.

'Steal a Seat' has more features than its precursor, the online auction scheme on indiatimes.com. Under the earlier scheme, there was a fixed lower limit (which varied depending on destinations) whereas in the 'Steal a Seat' campaign, the upper limit has been fixed (again depending on the destination) as the 'Buy Fare'. The destinations open for bids include Bangalore-Mumbai, Bangalore-Delhi, Mumbai-Kolkata, Kolkata-Delhi, Kolkata-Bangalore, Delhi-Guwahati, apart from Delhi-Mumbai.

To avail of the scheme, the consumer has to plan the journey 25 days in advance. Then log on to indiatimes.com or call, fax or e-mail and bid for his/her destination. Bids can be made at Indiatimes.com till 10 pm everyday and the winners would be intimated next morning.

Those who lose the bid, still stand to gain. "Even if one loses the bid, there are two kinds of 'Buy Fare' available to the customer. And the best part is that the fare is close to that of an AC second-class train ticket," says Alok Sharma, vice-president, corporate strategy and communication, Air Sahara.

Talking about how the earlier online auction had triggered a price war of sorts, Swarup says, "There was no apex rate system in the Indian aviation industry. However, after the introduction of the online auction of air tickets by Air Sahara, both Jet Airways and Indian Airlines were forced to react. While they have not adopted the same platform as we have, both have introduced the apex pricing system. Now that we have moved on to the next level, let's see how competition reacts." Under the 'Steal a Seat' campaign, 500 to 1,000 seats of Sahara's daily capacity of 7,300 seats will be open for bids.

For both Air Sahara and Indiatimes, the earlier online auction has a resounding success. "You could say we are the now the largest agents of Air Sahara," says Swarup. And with an 8 per cent commission on the proceeds from the sale of tickets, Indiatimes is flying high. "With the introduction of online auction, we have been making sales of Rs 82 lakh to Rs 1 crore per month. However, after the introduction of the apex pricing, the online auction dropped," confesses Sharma, "So we decided to launch another scheme. We expect to sell at least 10 per cent more under this scheme," he adds. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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