Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hot competition on KL-Chennai air route

With four airlines competing in the Kuala Lumpur-Chennai route, passengers are benefiting from the increasingly attractive fares.

After the KL-Delhi route, the KL-Chennai route is said to be the busiest for point to point travel from KL to India. Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is the fifth largest city in India and capital of Tamil Nadu state.

“The KL to India routes are high traffic routes as the countries have strong business, education, cultural and religious ties,’’ Malaysia Airlines (MAS) senior general manager sales and marketing Datuk Bernard Francis said in an e-mail reply to StarBiz queries.

MAS, Jet Airways, Indian Airlines and Air-India Express offer direct services. Flights originating from KL to Chennai via Singapore (Singapore Airlines and Tiger Airways), Bangkok (Thai Airways) and Colombo (Sri Lankan Airlines) are also popular. Most of the carriers offer daily flights to Chennai, an almost four-hour journey direct from KL.

Jet Airways regional general manager for Malaysia and Thailand Kavin Martinus said fares on the KL-Chennai route had dropped by 20% to 30% over the past two months.

“Fares on this sector can fluctuate depending on season and demand but even in a competitive environment, the carriers that ply direct enjoy an average passenger load factor of 65% to 70%,’’ he said from Bangkok.

MAS’ Francis said for the national carrier, the “load factors are high and hitting above 85%.’’

These days, one can get a return all-inclusive economy-class airfare for just over RM800 online provided you book early. But the cheapest fare thus far is from Sri Lankan Airlines at RM788 for an all-inclusive return airfare if you book direct with the airline. This fare is available till Aug 30.

Sri Lankan Airlines flies via Colombo which means you spend three hours waiting for your connection to Chennai. But if you travel on Sunday, you have to spend a night in Colombo at your own cost. However, from a traveller’s perspective, it is visiting two destinations for the price of one as you have about 16 hours before your connection to Chennai. You arrive after 3pm in Colombo on Sunday and leave for Chennai only at 7.25am on Monday.

A random check on online fares for a one-week trip from Aug 15 to 22 shows that Tiger Airways offers the best deal at an all-inclusive fare of RM807, followed by MAS at RM828. SIA’s return all-inclusive airfare for the KL-Singapore-Chennai sector is pricey at RM2,083. There was no seat availability on the dates for Indian Airlines and the offer is for business class at RM2,360 all-inclusive return airfare.

Travel agents have their own fares and those obtained from World Discovery Travel Sdn Bhd via its representative Kumari Mannathu show that Jet Airways’ RM988 all-inclusive return airfare is the lowest for the dates specified.

Fares may be competitive now but would they go down further?

“It depends on market conditions. Our (MAS) aim is to ensure that our fares remain competitive,’’ Francis said.

India’s Kingfisher Airlines was to start plying this route last year but up to now, the airline has yet to get into the act. However, it is learnt that it would begin plying the Colombo-Bangkok route next month. Hopefully, after Bangkok, it will consider the Chennai-KL connection to spice up the competition.

Source : STAR
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