Thursday, March 25, 2004

Great moments in globalisation

Booking short haul plane tickets is these days very easy. You just look the fares up on the internet, type in your credit card number, and bingo, you have a booking.

However, long haul and multi-stop tickets are enormously difficult to book over the internet. Either you end up being quoted the laughable "full fare" which nobody ever actually pays, or the online booking systems are not sophisticated enough to handle stopover, open jaws, round the world tickets, and all the other funny little details that occur if you are travelling a long way. So normally you have to deal with a travel agent or you have to ring up the airline directly. (What I would like is a proper over the internet interface to the booking systems used by actual travel agents. Yes, I am sure it is complicated. Yes, I can figure out how it works. Let me do it.

Travel agents are fine when you get someone who knows what they are talking about. (I had a particularly good travel agent when I lived in Sydney. He worked for a "student" travel agency, which was actually good, as students are often the people most likely to want a round the world seven airline counterclockwise itinerary with twenty seven stops that doesn't cost any more than a simple return, and frequently having to book such things trains good travel agents). However, when as a customer I find myself explaining to my travel agent just precisely which airlines fly where, what approximate fares should exist, and so such. Given that I am the one paying them, this is irritating.

All that said, some airline websites are better than others. British Airways have one which is surprisingly good and allows me to book more complicated itineraries at good prices than do most, but still not close to the full range of all fares and itinteraries that are possible on the airline. Their partner Qantas has a relatively useless website which cannot give me what I want. The complication comes from the fact that if I book the same flight through Qantas I get rather more frequent flier miles than if I book it through British airways. Therefore, it is necessary for me to actually call Qantas to make the booking. Okay?

However, I made the mistake of ringing up Qantas in the evening, after their British sales desk had closed. (I didn't ring them up especially late - it's just that their British office closes at about six. Their telephone system announced that it was forwarding me to a sales office in Australia, and that I would not pay extra for the call. Fine. But I wonder precisely why they did this, given that the person at the other end of the phone was entirely unable to help me with obtaining the best fare from London. One would think that if they can globalise their telephone system they can also globalise their booking system. But no.

Not much to say here, other than "Qantas".

No comments:

Blog Archive