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Europe air fare wars take off

A new price battle of the air will start this week as another low-cost airline opens, offering cheap fares in return for no-frills service.

Debonair, based at Luton Airport, is providing free tickets for its opening flights on Thursday to Munich, Dusseldorf and Barcelona. After that a typical one-way fare to Germany will cost pounds 39 and one-way to Barcelona just pounds 47.

Their services are part of an unprecedented era of cheap travel for Britons eager to leave the country. EasyJet, a cut-price airline at Luton, has just extended its services to Nice and Barcelona.

And Le Shuttle train services are publicising pounds 49 day return fares to the Continent, with some tickets costing only pounds 19 if a passenger wants to slip across the Channel after 2pm - providing they are back by midnight.

Debonair is run by chairman and chief executive Franco Mancassola, who has persuaded 500 investors from all over Europe to back his new venture.

As with EasyJet, Debonair aims to reduce costs by providing no hot meals on board its flights, and by selling tickets direct to the public, though unlike its close rivals it will also be selling flights through travel agents. Its Whisper jets will be one class.

The vice-president of marketing, Barry Zorn, said Debonair was not aiming to take part in an air price-war. "We are not thinking about that at all, our concept is just to offer affordable travel. Perhaps people who have never flown before will be attracted by what we have to offer."

News of the cheaper air fares this summer were hailed by consumer groups. Kim Winter, acting deputy editor of Holiday Which? said: "I think generally this is good news for the consumer - as long as people realise that in terms of service they will get what they pay for."