Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Air unfair

I have a holiday coming up in May, and as usual air travel features significantly in the itinerary. At the end of last November I went along to my friendly travel agent and he quoted me around £100 for a British Airways return flight from Gatwick to Majorca (where I'm led to understand the wa'er dun' taste like wo' i' ough'a). I could book my seats, but I couldn't pay for it yet, because May was too far ahead and flight schedules weren't finalised.

Last Wednesday - still over two months before the flights - I went with my credit card in hand, only to be told that British Airways now wanted £175. Outraged, I decided to shop around. Other travel agents quoted more or less the same fare, as did Expedia and my sister's pet travel agent in England. I eventually decided to swallow my pride. Further disgruntlement followed when I discovered that yesterday, merely five days after I was quoted £175, the fare had risen to £220.

What justifies more than doubling the ticket price is beyond my comprehension. I understand why BA chooses to behave in this way: they're one of the only shows in town, and can consequently charge whatever they darned well please. No wonder BA used to have a slogan that sounded very much like We'll take more fares off you.

Incidentally, the outbound flight is a mere £50. It's the return that keeps rising. Attempts to fly out on BA and back on some other airline are futile. Single fares carry surcharges so that even flying Air Berlin back to Stansted (at enormous personal inconvenience) works out no cheaper.

As for getting from the Middle East to UK, I'm risking the tender mercies of Qatar Airways again. As mentioned in a previous post, I'm trying to use up my frequent flyer Q-miles on Business class upgrades. Guess what? Although I can upgrade to Business on the outbound, the return sector is 'already full in Business class'. Two months in advance? How likely is that? It makes the probability of Elvis returning in a flying saucer look like a sure and certain thing.

I'm told that nearer the day most of the business executives will cancel their bookings and seats will become available. We all know what's really happening. Business Class is empty but all seats are blocked in case someone turns up with cash. Only when the airline realises that it'll be flying empty seats will it accept frequent flyer miles in payment for an upgrade. In fact I rang Qatar Airways and asked for a Business class seat and - as if by magic - it was available, but only for money.


El Casareño Ingles said...

I have managed to avoid air travel for the last five years.

To cheer you up, how about this: http://bacontarian.com/

Grumpy Goat said...

For anyone living in Qatar, Kuwait or KSA, that site probably counts as cruel and unusual. Always assuming it's not censored out of existence.

Air travel features highly in the Middle East because of the bureaucratic nightmare involved in crossing international borders by land. UAE to Oman is generally OK for holders of western (or UAE or Oman) passports, but transiting (not visiting) KSA can be a nightmare.


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