BA tries to scupper rivals with 2m cheap flights

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The Independent Online
BRITISH AIRWAYS is launching an attack designed to inflict maximum harm on its low- fare rivals by staging this weekend an unprecedented "summer sale".

The airline says it is selling 2 million seats at cut prices because of sluggish bookings during the World Cup. But many of the deepest discounts are on routes flown by no-frills competitors. Flights to dozens of European cities are being offloaded at less than pounds 100 return, undercutting fares on rivals easyJet and Ryanair. Routes operated by two smaller low-fare carriers, AB Airlines and Debonair, are also targets for deep discounts by BA.

The sale will soak up much of the available demand for travel during the rest of the year. The sell-off begins at 9am today and continues till midnight tomorrow. BA's flagship store in Regent Street, central London, is open until 9pm tonight.

Other BA Travel Shops will open tomorrow and hundreds hundreds of extra staff have been drafted in to region al call centres.

Although bookings must be made by midnight on Sunday, the period for which the outbound flights can be taken extends to the end of November, with returns possible until 30 December.

This year, BA has faced intense competition from low-cost airlines, and in June it launched its own low-cost offshoot, Go, which it is now actually undercutting on routes to Copenhagen and Lisbon.

Rivalry is most intense on flights to Nice, where BA takes on easyJet, Debonair and AB Airlines, as well as a British Midland/Air France joint operation. BA's promotional fare from London is just pounds 79 return (including pounds 17 tax), compared with a full economy fare of pounds 585.

Scandinavia has been singled out for deals that appear below cost, with a flat fare of pounds 89 from London to any of the four capital cities. The target appears to be Ryanair, which has flights from Stansted to Scandanavian capitals.Fares from regional airports have also been cut drastically

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of easyJet, last night called for an investigation by the competition authorities. "My immediate reaction is that with their fares cost structure, they are selling below cost. They are dumping seats in the hope of driving the weakest competitors out of the market.

Tim Jeans, Commercial Director of Ryanair, said "I can't understand the logic of them undercutting their own low-fare traffic," he said..