Three airlines have introduced identical cut-rate fares in the face of fierce competition on the Hong Kong-to-London route. Cathay Pacific, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are all offering economy class return flights for $5,600. The fare was launched simultaneously by Virgin Atlantic and British Airways on February 1, with Cathay following suit yesterday. The travel industry welcomed the cheap flights but warned airlines not to disregard travel agents as partners. 'This is good news for travellers and we hope airlines extend these special discounts as often as they can,' said Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council. 'We also hope that they can still reserve commission for travel agents. The airlines should still regard agents as partners.' The Hong Kong Tourist Association did not comment on the promotion as the offer is focused on outbound travel. However, a spokeswoman commenting on the pricing issue said: 'We favour a more regulated approach to air fares.' British Airways commercial sales manager Chadd Gorden said the special fares were in line with market conditions and were introduced despite two significant increases in the cost of aviation fuel. The offers are not valid during the peak Easter season from April 6 to 25 and tickets have to be booked and issued on or before March 31. The promotion ends on June 21. An airline industry source said the discounted fares were not uncommon, but competition between the three airlines was not as fierce as last year. 'Special fares are common at this time of year because it is a low travel season for leisure travellers and the Hong Kong-to-London sector is very competitive,' she said. 'But last year the competition was even more severe and airlines were offering flights for just over $4,000.' Travel agents this year are offering packages that include three nights accommodation in a London hotel from about $5,900 per person sharing.