Too good to be true?
The number of emails one receives with "special fares" never ceases. Some do contain genuine offers (or, at least, notification of the introduction of special "Cat35" fares) and....
Hang on ....
"What are "Cat35" fares?" I hear you ask.
If you look on (most) OTA's or other websites, you will see two types of fare. The main ones are what are called "Published Fares" and if you are travelling on the 6.00am flight from (in Europe) London to Amsterdam, then chances are, that will be the only option on offer. However, if you want a trip to, say Sydney (and you are staying there awhile) then the story is very different. You will see many offers, often dressed up as "(XYZ website) Special Fare" or even "Hacker Fare" or some other silly name which many of the more popular websites have dreamt up. You will note that most of these fares are all about the same price, give or take a few pounds. These fares are what are known as "Cat35" fares.
Point is, you either have them .... or you don't. Doesn't matter how big or how small you are, an agent will either have access to these fares or they don't and if they do, then size, believe it or not, does not matter.
So, when I receive an email with some marvelous offer and knowing that I do offer Cat35 fares, I like to check if they are realistic or if they are clickbait. The one received this morning was clearly clickbait. "50% off First Class Fares" the offer screamed and "First Class Fares from £1190".
Well, I know that a first class return fare to the Middle East cannot be had for £1190. You cannot get a one way fare for that sort of money, either. The implication in the email was that this was with Etihad (an excellent airline, based in Abu Dhabi). The best First Class return fare, with restrictions, that you are going to get with Etihad is around the £4,000 mark. The best in Business Class about £2,000 and all these tickets carry restrictions.
Apart from the annoyance caused by these sort of offers, it is very much a a case of "If an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is".
This is where your traditional travel agent comes in. We know, often just by looking at a fare, if it has the right sort of "look and feel". We know when the fare is about right and when the fare is something that may be substantially improved on. We consider aspects such as the number of changes involved, if there is a "Plan B" should a connection be missed, where any change of aircraft may be and if the routing, in general wear and tear terms, makes sense.
No website can do as much as an agent and if the your agent has, like myself, access to Cat35 fares then what any agent can offer will not be far removed from any (sensible) online offering. Further, your agent is just a phone call away.