What a difference a year makes. Last year UK executives heading for India were paying high prices for their business class flights – always assuming they could get a seat.
Rigid governmental controls on the number of airlines and flights allowed to fly between the UK and India created a seat shortage. Which was good news for the limited number of carriers plying the routes to Mumbai and Delhi (because high fares mean healthy profits) but bad news for the travelling public because ticket prices were kept high.
But liberalisation last spring allowed existing carriers to add extra flights. It also enabled newcomers like Bmi, Jet Airways and Air Sahara to enter the market. The resulting seat glut has led to business class fares, both by direct and indirect carriers, tumbling by 50 per cent.
When Business Traveller checked fares to Mumbai and Delhi for travel in the next few weeks, we discovered that business class tickets can cost as little as £782 return.
That deal was being offered by Airline Network and included flights with Air Sahara between Heathrow and Delhi. But other options included KLM for £1,240, Lufthansa for £1,494 or Qatar Airways for £1,520.
Online agent Travelocity had rates of £1,214 with Air France or £1,218 with Alitalia. Non-stop flights with Jet Airways were on offer at £1,418, which is great value when you consider that Jet provides fully lie-flat beds.
Similar savings were available on the Mumbai route with Swiss having a mouth-watering rate of £1,162 while Bmi's website quoted around £1,730. Jet Airways was priced at £1,394 through Airline Network.
Their stronger brand identities enable BA and Virgin Atlantic to continue charging the normal rates of around £3,000 return. But if you can book 21 days ahead (and no later than March 10) and depart by March 31 then you'll qualify for Virgin Atlantic's current £1,277 seat sale offer.
Report by Alex McWhirter