Asia-Pacific airfares tumble

Travellers are being offered some of the cheapest airfares in over 30 years as Asia-Pacific airlines fight to counter the impact of SARS with rock-bottom rates.

    Chief Executive Geoff Dixon still
    hoping for profits like 2002

    On Tuesday, Qantas Airways announced fares discounted by as much as 50 percent to two of the worst hit destinations, Singapore and Hong Kong.
      
    The Australian national flag carrier is offering packages, which include fares and four nights accommodation, at $520 from Sydney and Melbourne to Singapore and $585 to Hong Kong.

    They will be available until 21 June for travel up to 27 November this year.

    Air Canada, also badly affected by the SARS virus, is offering a $1,040 fare from Sydney across the Pacific to London with a stopover either in Hawaii or Canada.   

    Singapore Airlines (SIA) announced it will offer a 50 percent price cut on services into the city state between 16 June and 31 August booked two and four weeks in advance, according to executive vice president for marketing regions Huang Cheng Eng.

    The first 15,000 bookings will get a 75 percent discount. 
      

    SIA will hope to keep its place as
    biggest Asia Pacific carrier

    SIA, which the government has warned may lose as much as $570 million in the 2004 financial year, says the fares are among the lowest since the 1970s.
     
    The airline is also offering cut price packages to Paris, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Dubai and half fares to the first 15,000 people who book.

    Bad few months

    Visitor arrivals to Singapore have plunged. In the first 26 days of May they were down 72 percent on last year's figures.

    SIA alone, which has slashed capacity by a third since 20 March the equivalent of 358 flights a week, has suffered $115.9 million in operating losses since April.
     
    Singapore Hotel Association chief executive, Pakir Singh, told journalists that occupancy rates in its member-hotels in the city-state were hovering at about 35 percent, compared with about 80 percent before the SARS outbreak.

    Recent official data also shows international visitor numbers to Australia had slumped to five-year lows, with travellers from Southeast Asia down 40 percent in April compared with the same month last year.

    Some hope

    In a welcome glimmer of hope, SIA shares have risen for the first time in weeks on Tuesday with news of the promotions. "I think the shares are moving up because there is belief that the worst is over," said Eng. 

    Qantas Holidays chief operating officer Simon Bernardi said that with SARS trouble spots "now given the all-clear from the World Health Organisation … interest in travelling is increasing and we are looking to stimulate some of this increased demand for travel."

    Meanwhile, Dubai-based airline Emirates announced it would fly routes between Australia and New Zealand from 1 August  beginning with two flights daily to Auckland, one each from Sydney and Melbourne and a third from Brisbane on 26 October.


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