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Never "The Best"


It is an interesting point that nearly all of the travel industry makes a point of selling "the cheapest". How little our air fare (may) be, how cheap are our hotel rooms or holidays, how little you pay for our car hire.

True, this sort of advertising is used as a bargain basement to lure people to any given site - click bait, if you like; only to find that what you actually want is going to cost you about twice or three times the price.

The general public know, arguably, that any super offer by any airline, tour operator or other travel supplier will invariably apply at any time you like as long as it is not at a time when you can actually travel.

Take an email from one major airline, for example. A recent email offered Business Class to Singapore "from" £2118 - an excellent fare by all accounts. Thing is, you need (travel agent speak, this) to find "P" class availability. "P" class was closed off for most of the time that I searched (by "closed off" I mean that the flights were by no means full - indeed, many were empty - but you could still not make a reservation in P class). So, I turned to the airline website and found that the only flights available at this fare were with an outbound flight on the 20th December and a return on the 27th December. You will have to be quick, though, as there were only about 2 seats left at this price.

The best fare I could achieve, for any practical itinerary, was closer to £3,500.

This exercise also produced another interesting side issue. On the website, as would be the case on any of the cumbersome point-and-click type interfaces, you could only see what is available; you cannot see what isn't, as you can on a GDS. This is important - Why? Well, you would need to be a travel agent to know why and it is also why travel tech is terrible when it comes to understanding actual travel.

Travel is renowned for shooting itself in the foot. Not only does travel shoot itself in the foot, it does not even realise it has done so and so, gleefully continues to aim at its feet and to make sure, employs the largest gun it can find.

Hotels, tour operators and car hire move along the same lines and fight like enraged beasts to show you how little you could pay to book a room, flight, hire a car or spend a week on the Costa Del Whatever. No effort is ever made to promote why any given chain or car hire firm is the most reliable, the cleanest, the best quality - it is all about price. In order to achieve that price (apart from strictly limiting availability, to the extreme frustration of clients) corners have to be cut - rather, what you get for your money is cut.

The suppliers eye is not on what the customer wants, it is half on how far competitors are in the race to the bottom and half on what any supplier perceives is what the customer wants. What the customer reports on any survey or other research programme, is naturally going to be weighted towards cost - after all, are turkeys going to vote for Christmas?

Perhaps too much reliance is placed on what marketing think and not enough on common sense.

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