BA offer sparks price war across the Atlantic

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The Independent Online
BRITISH AIRWAYS is cutting the cost of dozens of international fares in October and November in celebration of its 75th anniversary, sparking a transatlantic price war in the industry.

Among the offers are November return fares of pounds 59 to Paris and pounds 168 to New York. The Paris fare compares with BA's existing cheapest ticket of pounds 108 and aims to lure passengers away from the Channel tunnel.

Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic immediately said that it would undercut BA by pounds 1 to New York and Los Angeles, using the same terms and conditions as BA.

There are 85 destinations in the BA scheme, including Rome, with return fares starting at pounds 99 and Los Angeles at pounds 199. Return tickets to Rio for outward flights taken in November are pounds 299 compared with a standard fare of pounds 1,006.

United Airlines and American Airlines, the largest American carriers, both said they would match BA's offer fares. A United spokesman said: 'There is always a price war across the Atlantic. These are already among the world's most competitive routes.'

One industry source said that BA's latest fares are 'suicidal', whatever the conditions concerning restrictions on dates of travel.

BA said for all its offers flight bookings must be made by the end of this month and return journeys can be made up to 10 December. The level of the discount and the period in which the outward flight can be taken varies from destination to destination. A spokesman said that many of the flights will be available for outward travel from 18 August until the end of October.

BA said the offer was 'in essence a clearance sale' of spare capacity. Even in July, the peak summer period, the company flew with 20 per cent of its seats empty.

The launch of the discount scheme coincides with the 75th anniversary of the first flight between London and Paris, which was also the first daily international scheduled service. It is the most aggressive of a series of offers from BA which began almost five months ago. In that time BA says it has carried more than 300,000 people, many of whom would not have flown with the airline otherwise.

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