Josh Martin is a New Zealand journalist based in London.
OPINION: You’ve scoured the internet for the best deal, convinced you a 4am start will be worth it and a nine-hour layover is bearable, so congratulations, the seats are all yours, all for the low price of $499.
Oh, and the extra $20 for having the audacity to pay by debit or credit card. What did you think this was, 2022? But in my recent experience, the card payment fee, a treat reserved exclusively for antipodean airlines, is nowhere near the worst examples of bold extra fees that online travel agents (OTAs), car rental companies and low-cost airlines are now trying to convince. us are vital to a successful trip abroad.
And just as I was brimming with goodwill for the tourism industry, I have another reason to be careful.
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* An international holiday without Covid tests? It’s not that far, New Zealand
Paying extra for checked baggage has been a mainstay of modern air travel for more than a decade. However, the list of add-ons offered when searching for flights back to Aotearoa was extended to: $25 or $50 for an upgrade to a “silver” or “gold” service package, which would mean shorter wait times at the call center in case you need to contact someone. on these flights and reduced administrative fees for flight changes or refunds (despite the fact that the airline itself has eliminated them).
Insurance was also offered for around $500 for two travellers, again promising the benefits of free rebooking and changes allowed due to Covid, already guaranteed by the airline anyway. Add another $16 for the travel agent to get the message across that two people traveling together would like to sit next to each other (no guarantees though!).
Are you worried that the flight will be delayed and the compensation will be lost? Just pay an extra $32 and an OTA will help you file a claim for compensation through another company called AirHelp. You can do it yourself with the airline, or just Google “AirHelp”, but that seems too difficult for some.
And if you can’t be bothered to Google about the money owed, then you probably can’t be bothered to research the visas your trip requires. Fortunately, an OTA MyTrip offers to email you a link for whatever you might need, all for another $78 each. Never mind that my US transit visa is only about $20.
It is this duplication that grinds my gears the most. And in these volatile times, web travel agents must make some profit by misleading infrequent travelers into thinking they must pay an intermediary an extra $14 each way to get the message across to the airline that it’s gluten-free. or is vegan. or baggage tracking insurance when they only have hand luggage.
Yes, that’s another $20 extra for the OTA to connect you with a company that “helps you track lost luggage for up to 96 hours. If your bag is not returned by then, you will receive $500.” That’s despite the fact that airlines and airport service companies do the same and regular travel insurance covers lost or delayed luggage as standard.
If you had said “yes” to each additional fare offered, this initially cheaper airfare would increase by an additional $800 per person. Even saying “yes” to a couple of the more reasonable offers would still mean the quote beat those on the airline’s official website.
Their continued existence shows that the offer of online travel agents is attractive to some, despite the fact that many travelers switch to the airline’s official online check-in system in the pre-flight period.
Airlines can bear some of the blame for this industry manipulation, as they use complex pricing algorithms, known in the industry as “dynamic pricing.”
It basically means that the person who sat in seat 36K paid a different airfare than seat 36J. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be a different person, the same two airlines that combine to take you from one side of the world to the other can offer very different quotes.
You might assume that a return trip from London Heathrow to Auckland via San Francisco with Virgin Atlantic doing the first leg, then switching to an Air New Zealand plane for the transpacific leg, would be priced similarly on each other’s website. airline, given the exact Same dates and same plane? Do not.
On Virgin, my airfare quote was approximately $1,900. The same trip, class, plane, seat (heck, I’d even promise to watch the same movies and eat the same food) was listed for an unbelievable $4175 on New Zealand’s flag carrier.
I’m sure the finance department can explain why it’s a great idea for airlines but as a customer it doesn’t make sense so to find easily decipherable and comparable airfares OTAs have stayed afloat long after The prophecies of his demise began.
I’ll admit, it’s a fine line – the day you decline travel insurance will be the only time you’ll need it (but it’s better to look separately for a full policy rather than an add-on as part of a booking) and on In In today’s volatile environment, many tourists will willingly throw money away for peace of mind.
Buyer beware, as the travel industry heads down the road to recovery, there are scammers once again.