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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Price based competition is once again threatening to commoditise airlines brands in the country.

But who’s to be blamed for the mess, asks Ratan Lal Bhagat

“Keeping in mind my tight budget and the more or less similar kind of in-flight services that airlines offer these days, I would prefer buying ticket of an airline which provides me with the lowest fare rather than opting for a specific airline to satisfy my travel needs,” professes Vivek Dixit, a Delhi based businessman whose business obligations make him hop over metros nearly every week. And it’s not only him. In fact, almost every other frequent flyer seems to have got stuck in the same predicament, who, like Dixit, blatantly displays the loss of brand differentiation and loyalty for the Indian aviators.

Even renowned names, which include Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines, Naresh Goyal’s Jet Airways, et al, seem to have perhaps failed in evoking any kind of purchase perseverance and brand loyalty among flyers. Certainly, no loss can be bigger than the fear of loosing one’s own identity and unfortunately the players in the domestic aviation arena are somehow currently going through a similar crisis.

Raison d’être: The ailing economy and in turn the decline in the purchasing power of travellers have forced them to opt for the most economical fare available, irrespective of the airline. Further, with business fraternity too looking for modes to save every possible penny, the corporate travel through air has also registered a considerable decline. All these definitely have had a bad impact on the already declining load factors of the domestic airliners. In fact, according to the data provided by Cleartrip.com, a portal for ticket and hotel bookings, the domestic business class occupancy has fallen significantly by over 50%. But then, who is to be blamed for the mess?

“The entire loss in brand differentiation and loyalty has been self triggered by the domestic airlines. Players have persistently highlighted their low fares to sell their services thus encouraging prospective customers to adopt the price-only-approach whenever they plan to travel by air,” claims Anand Halve, Co-Founder and CEO, Chlorophyll Brand and Communications Consultancy. Certainly, it’s the fear to lose to the low cost carriers (LCCs) that has forced the full service carriers (FSCs) to indiscriminately slash their fares. This, however, has not only flagged another air fare war, but has also added to their own plight.

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2010.

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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