News stories frequently use anonymous sources; it's a necessary part of the trade, but easy to abuse. Like most media people, I read articles with one question always at the back of my mind: "Whose interest, if anybody's, does this piece serve?" I'm not a conspiracy theorist. Quite often, an article will appear balanced, quoting multiple viewpoints. Or else it will be a manifestly opinionated piece of editorialising, making no claims to neutrality.
But every day I come across articles which appear to be unbiased reportage, but are clearly of help to some individual or organisation. Take this piece by Laltendu Mishra in today's Hindustan Times, for instance:
The price war among airlines is now intensifying on the long-haul routes to London, Brazil and Malaysia.
Jet Airways in partnership with TAM Air is offering an all-inclusive economy class return fares to Brazil for Rs 76,000 via London and Rs 86,000 via New York.
Passengers can fly from Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai to Brazil’s Rio and Sao Paulo airports at these fares. This is comparatively cheaper than Emirates’ India-Brazil all-inclusive return fare of Rs 94,000, which industry executives say has been the cheapest going. Currently Emirates flies bulk of the passengers in the India-Brazil route through its hub in Dubai. On the eastern side, Singapore Airlines has introduced a special economy class fare in the India-Kuala Lumpur sector. An all-inclusive return ticket is priced at Rs 14,500. This is against Jet Airways’ Chennai-Kuala Lumpur all-inclusive return fare of Rs 14,715.
Jet is offering a Mumbai-Singapore return fare for Rs 11,428 in its lowest slab.
There is also intense competition in the Mumbai-London sector.
Air India is offering the cheapest basic return fare at Rs 8,900 (all inclusive Rs 27,922) as against British Airways’ Rs 11,990 (all inclusive Rs 28,390) and Jet’s Rs 11,990 (all inclusive Rs 18,390), according to information gathered from travel trade.
As traffic is declining due to various factors including slack economic growth worldwide, airlines are expected to make more attractive deals to stimulate flying, airline officials say.
In other words, Jet Airways offers the lowest priced tickets to Brazil. It also offers reasonable prices on the Mumbai - Singapore sector and nearly matches Singapore Airlines' special fare to Kuala Lumpur. Oh, and it beats the competition by 10 grand on the India-London route.
When I first read the piece, I felt it was a plant by Jet Airways. On digging deeper, I'm not so sure. As of today, the Jet Airways site offers no tickets to Brazil at all. On the Singapore route, I tried different dates but wasn't offered anything close to the lowest slab fare quoted in the article. As for the London price, it is a misprint: the actual total fare after adding taxes and a hefty surcharge (which all airlines tack on in India, cheating customers in the process because oil prices are no longer high enough to justify surcharges) is exactly the same as British Airways, Rs.28,390, not 18,390.
Anybody trying to book a ticket through the Jet Airways website on any of these sectors after reading the article is going to be disappointed and probably angry.