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Domestic airlines’ sites offering extra benefits to passengers to wean them away from travel agents

Jet Airways, India’s second biggest airline by market share, is in talks with cab aggregator Uber for clubbing its services with flights.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jul 21, 2016, 09.43 AM IST
Airlines’ sites offering extra benefits to passengers
MUMBAI: Indian carriers are giving passengers attractive additional incentives on their own websites to wean them away from travel agents.

Jet Airways, India’s second biggest airline by market share, is in talks with cab aggregator Uber for clubbing its services with flights. Under this, a customer buying a Jet Airways flight ticket can advance-book an Uber cab pickup and drop from and to the origin and destination airports.

The services will possibly involve incentives like getting luxury car services at base rates. The talks are still at an initial stage, said Belson Coutinho, vice president , marketing, ecommerce and innovations at Jet Airways.

Budget carrier SpiceJet is in talks with MyTaxiIndia for a similar service, a person in the know said. SpiceJet has discounts for students and senior citizens, specifically available only on its website.

Jet is also refurbishing its pricing tool on the website, introducing additional number of buckets, giving as much as six times of additional travel points or miles on some buckets and clearly demarcating what incentives—lounge access, cancelations, upgrades to higher classes that—each fare bucket would provide.

Rival Vistara, the joint venture between Singapore Airlines and Tata Sons, has a stay offer at properties of Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces only on its website. Also on offer are 200 points on Club Vistara, its loyalty programme, on website and mobile app bookings and 100 bonus points on website and mobile app check-ins, said a spokesperson. Growing internet penetration, especially on mobile phones, are encouraging Indians to indulge in more online shopping and multiple options. Travel is no different.

“While we are not sure how many people are shifting from travel management websites such as ours to individual airline or hotel websites, people do shop a lot more,” said Indiver Rastogi, country head, corporate travel, at Thomas Cook.

For airlines, there is a cost advantage in direct sales rather than selling through agents, which entails commissions and other charges. Colin Neubronner, Jet’s senior vice president, sales and marketing, said the airline "spends $4-$5 (Rs 272-Rs 340) additionally on every ticket worth $50 (Rs 3,400), when a customer purchases it through a travel agent”.

These cost cuts is also relevant at a time aggressive price wars are forcing all airlines to sell below operating expenses and the government has been looking at ways to cap ticket fares. It is now working on a set of rules that say the charges levied on a customer who cancels his ticket cannot be more than the base fare. India already has one of the lowest domestic air ticket rates in the world.

Jet’s direct sales from its website have increased 45%-50% in the last one year and now constitute 20% of its total sales, compared to 15% a year earlier, said Coutinho.

Online travel agents said the number of options available on their portals will continue to bring customers to them.
“We go one step further in terms of giving incentives such as e-cash under which, if a customer has got a refund from a ticket cancellation, he can use it to book another service, say a hotel. Airline websites can’t offer that,” said Sharat Dhall, president of travel portal Yatra.
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