If travel plans are looming on the horizon for a trip to India, the season may be just ripe to snap up some killer deals.
Flights to India have dropped as low as Dh734 for a return ticket to Mumbai next month, via Etihad Airways, while a flight to New Delhi is priced at just Dh815 with the same carrier.
Fluctuate those dates in a weekend in March or April and even Emirates may offer up a fare for as low as Dh1,100, with online flight portals such as Cleartrip and Makemytrip offering these take-off fares, with additional coupon codes to serve up a further discount.
Turn further afield and the Abu Dhabi-based Etihad is offering flights to the popular destination of Kochi for as low as Dh856, while the Sharjah-based low-cost carrier is serving up that fare for Dh945 for mid-March.
Meanwhile, a direct flight to Bangalore is as low as Dh1,090 via Jet Airways from Abu Dhabi.
Travel industry experts say the competitive price war for the India sector has been fuelled further with the option of greater connectivity with the opening of Dubai World Central, which has carriers Gulf Air and now Qatar Airways also taking off from Al Maktoum International from March 1, along with the boost in the number of seats to India through the Etihad-Jet Airways alliance following the former’s 24 per cent equity stake in the Indian carrier.
In its wake, the Abu Dhabi carrier has doubled the number of flights and tripled the number of seats to Mumbai and New Delhi, adding a second daily service and introducing wide-bodied jets on both routes.
The airline has also detailed out plans for a major expansion drive into India for 2014, with increasing capacity to Bangalore, Chennai, Kochi and Hyderabad.
Announcing its expanded schedules to major Indian gateways Mumbai and New Delhi, Etihad revealed new mid-afternoon services to Mumbai and New Delhi, each seating 136 passengers, while existing late evening departures have been upgraded to a larger aircraft.
The A340 has added 2,044 seats per week from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai, taking the total from 952 to 2,996 seats in each direction – just over triple the previous capacity.
On the Abu Dhabi-New Delhi route, the evening service has added 1,778 seats per week to and from New Delhi, increasing from 952 seats to 2,730 in each direction – almost triple the previous capacity.
President and Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, James Hogan, said the increased capacity on both routes was in response to growing demand for more seats and delivered more schedule choice between Abu Dhabi and India’s two largest cities.
Later this year, India will continue the UAE flight-plan, with Etihad itself including additional flights or the introduction of larger aircraft on existing routes to India, with Kochi doubling from seven to 14 flights per week from June 2014.
Bangalore and Chennai will also double to 14 flights per week each, from July 2014; while Hyderabad will do the same from October 2014. As well as more flights, Etihad is introducing larger aircraft in markets.
New Airbus A321 aircraft, seating 174 passengers, will be used on all Abu Dhabi-Chennai services, and between Abu Dhabi and Kochi from June 2014.
For residents such as Bharat V Shah, this greater connectivity can only mean more frequent flying to India to visit his ailing mother in Ahmedabad.
The 45-year-old Indian national, was elated, saying: “My travel to India was infrequent until recently when my mother suffered from a stroke.
“Now, every few months, I fly to Ahmedabad to check in on her health and am always on standby in case of an emergency.
“What I never took into account was how much of an added expense this will prove in the long run. I was forced to spend my weekends surfing online websites, trying all budget carrier options on weekends that were affordable to catch a flight out.
“A few hundreds may not count for much for some, but the added savings on three flights can possibly help someone like me afford a fourth one to pay a visit to my mother.”
Omar Sayaa, who has family back in Mumbai, said: “I usually keep our India trips limited to two visits every year, one for my wife to see her family and one for me to do the same. The children travel every two years for this very reason.
“Considering flights to Mumbai can reach up to Dh1,400 during peak season, it is difficult to budget in for four. Halve the cost and we can do this more regularly.”
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