Winter always puts a chill on the pocketbooks of airlines as business slips in the off-season, but Icelandair announced yesterday fall and winter fare discounts that it hopes will warm up its business at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
"The fall and winter is always the slow season for the international airline industry," said Bill Connors, Icelandair spokesman. "With the recession, the fear is that this year might be very slow. These fares are designed to entice travelers who might be hesitating about going."
"Entice," as in $298 round trip from BWI to Luxembourg, in the heart of Western Europe. By comparison, the shuttle from Washington's National Airport to New York City costs $142 each way. Icelandair fares to London, Glasgow, Scotland, and Amsterdam, the Netherlands, will start at $346 round trip. The fares also apply to Icelandair departures out of New York.
Mr. Connors said that the fares are the lowest that Icelandair has offered in 12 years, and even the fares then were discounted off-season seats. There is one catch, however: "You have to reserve and pay by Sept. 18," Mr. Connors said.
Travel consultants said that some of the fares are exceptional, while others are similar to discounts offered by some other airlines.
"These are phenomenal fares," said Stacey Klebanow, a consultant at R. B. Brown Travel Services Inc. in Hunt Valley. "They'll be sold out. You won't be able to get space."
Ms. Klebanow pointed out that the Luxembourg fare is much lower than the $650 Trans World Airlines is asking for the same time in November, and the Amsterdam fare is about half of what KLM Royal Dutch Airlines quotes for November flights.
"We use Icelandair a lot because you can get people to Europe cheap," she said. "Key word, cheap. I'm supposed to use 'economical.' "
But she said that competitors such as TWA are offering similar low fares to London.
Terry Jerscheid of Omega World Travel in Baltimore agreed that some of the Icelandair fares are rock-bottom, especially the Luxembourg fare, while others are competitive with other carriers' discounts. And she said more cuts are likely to come.
"Usually when one of them comes out with a special fare, they all follow shortly after," Ms. Jerscheid said.
Icelandair's Luxembourg fare is valid Nov. 1 through Dec. 12 and Dec. 25 through March 14, 1992. For March 15 through March 31 it rises to $318. The lower fares to London, Glasgow and Amsterdam are in effect from Christmas Day through March 14. For Nov. 1 through Dec. 12 and March 15 through March 31, the price is $366. Fares will be higher in the two weeks before Christmas.
Icelandair serves only three U.S. cities -- Baltimore, New York and Orlando, Fla., Mr. Connors said. Its three weekly off-season flights from BWI all stop over in Iceland. Besides Britain and Luxembourg, discounted flights are available to France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Austria.