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Airlines remove ticket discounts
( 2003-08-26 10:58) (Shanghai Daily)

Passengers recently found it much more expensive to fly from Beijing to Shanghai, China's two major cities, as airlines operating flights on the route discontinued fare discounts due to growing air traffic after the SARS outbreak.

As airlines are now offering nearly full-price tickets on the route, passengers have to pay around 1,000 yuan (US$120) for a single trip from Beijing to Shanghai. Passengers used to buy similar tickets with a 40-to-50 percent discount before the SARS epidemic.

Carriers once provided tickets priced as low as 200 yuan on the route when the disease prevailed across Asia, said Zhao Hong, general manager with Shanghai Guangfa Air-Ticket Co Ltd. "They now feel it unnecessary to continue the low-price promotion since air traffic has picked up after the SARS outbreak," said Zhao.

Compared with an average load factor of around 20 percent in the domestic aviation industry during the SARS outbreak, more than 80 percent of the seats on planes flying between Shanghai and Beijing are sold now, with weekend flights being fully booked.

The price rise, which has already been around for about one week, had little impact on the passenger numbers.

"The rise has turned out to have limited influence on ticket booking. There is strong demand for travel in the market," said Bai Ge, a marketing staff with Shanghai branch of Air China.

Market observers say the price hike is the result of an alliance between carriers cashing in on the current booming air market, but the airlines involved denied such a move.

"Domestic carriers like us often discuss about air fares on some prime routes like those from Shanghai to Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen and adjust frequently according to market demand," said Shan Chuanbo with China Eastern Airlines.

Meanwhile, ticket prices remain stable at about 40 or 50 percent off for flights from Shanghai to Beijing. Industry insiders said it is because there was no significant ticket discount on the sector during the SARS crisis.

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