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The Great Online Money Machine

Monarch Airlines

Monarch Airlines, the popular holiday destination airline, recently took their flight only sales out of the ATOL scheme, relying on the customers use of credit cards to purchase tickets, to cover passengers should the very worst happen. This is not a hindrance, for no scheduled airline has their seat only sales covered under the ATOL scheme. For added peace of mind, when you buy their flights, you can use a credit card and at the same time as you pass money, make sure you receive a ticket.

Delving into Monarch's FAQ section, there is a rather interesting FAQ concerning sales of their seats direct on the Monarch website as opposed to buying the seats from an online agent, in the case of Monarch, they single out edreams.

Out of interest, I compared bookings on edreams and on Monarch direct. I chose a trip to Malaga, leaving on the 19th July and returning on the 26th July. Note that such comparisons must be made at the same time, as the availability is constantly changing.

Monarch offered a seat for £146.00 with no hold bag, seat or anything else and £206.30 if you include the sort of things you would need for a week's holiday (how anyone can manage for a week with just a small carry-on, I know not). edreams offers the flights, with hold bag but no seat reservation for £216.03, and without anything, for £153.19, apparently reduced from £164.04.

The "Best offer" on edreams was with Easyjet, priced by them at £144.98, based on £133.48 plus an £11.50 fee. The same flights were shown on the actual Easyjet website for £123.48. Interestingly, edreams also offer an insurance policy which mentions: "£5,000 per person if you need to cancel your trip" Well, not quite. £5,000 per person cover if you have to cancel your trip for a valid insurance reason - which is not really the same thing as edreams's rather bold statement. "Valid insurance reasons" means things such as your death or a near relatives death... the usual things that are covered.

Returning to the online agent's pricing, I do not see how edreams manages to show that the Monarch price is "reduced" from £164.04, as that price does not tally with anything.

Online agents - especially larger online agents, rely on a certain amount of subterfuge to haul in bookings. People perceive online as somehow cheaper and the addition of guarantees of the lowest price, this adds to the feeling that, by booking with an online agent, one is going to get a better deal.

What about a traditional agent? For a flight only booking, we would probably suggest that the client does this direct, themselves, with the airline concerned. Not everyone likes to book themselves - or cannot or just finds getting an agent to do their bookings saves them a lot of time. In which case any agent would (probably) say: "I will book this for you direct on the airline website. There will be a £15.00 charge for my doing it".

I don't know how "transparent" people like their quotations. Personally, I think "I will charge you £15.00 for doing it" is a lot more transparent that firstly, adding in £10 to the airline base price, before displaying any results and then, adding another £11.50 as a fee, later during the booking process - and that without any mention of the fare types and what the various fare types include.

For clarity and transparency, the traditional agent still offers a great deal.

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