BA cuts its fares amid slump

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BRITISH AIRWAYS declares war on its rivals this morning with the launch of a ticket that undercuts all existing official round-the- world fares by at least a quarter. Travellers are being offered the chance to visit almost any city on the long-haul networks of BA and its partner, the Australian airline Qantas, for pounds 742.

At the end of a week in which it revealed a slump in earnings, British Airways is desperate to fill surplus economy-class seats with the offer of up to 10 flights around the world for as little as pounds 75 per flight. The fare sharply undercuts any similar deal on the market, and looks likely to spark a price battle. It includes a United Kingdom domestic add-on; passengers will be able to fly from their local airport to Heathrow, then travel to any of the main cities in Australia, and continue onwards to complete a circumnavigation.

A spokeswoman for British Airways said: "This is about offering value for money and encouraging greater awareness of the benefits of the Qantas/BA relationship and the hundreds of different routings that no one else can offer. It's been in the making for several months and has nothing to do with the financial results." Nevertheless, within the next three years, the airline expects to cut 130 economy seats from many of its long-haul flights by using smaller aircraft.

Unlike most round-the-world flights, the deal also covers Africa and South America, and allows up to six free stopovers. The lowest price will be for the traditional low season, between mid-April and June next year. Departures between November 1999 and April 2000 are priced at pounds 888.

t The no-frills airline easyJet yesterday published details of new winter flights from Gatwick and Stansted to Geneva, plus routes from Luton to Liverpool and Malaga. The British Airways' equivalent, Go, has announced new routes from Stansted to Prague and Barcelona.