If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.

~ Benjamin Franklin ~

Nothing Like Flights Online

December 7th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 59 secs

Gorillas refuse to book flights and for good reason.

Imagine: one day you’ll be able to book your flights online! Well that day came years ago and, now the wonder has well and truly evaporated.

Sure, you can find flights anywhere you like. Want to go to Cuba? No worries. Antarctica? No problem (though it’s only a flyover for now). New York, London, Paris, Toronto. Feel free to follow your nose with “Air Guano.” 

You only need a computer or connected device, a hint of money, and off you go. Booking flights have never been so easy.

Except, that it isn’t. I mean, every online flight booking service should have a big red button on their site saying, “Help!” Because you can bet your discount airfare the website won’t work the way you thought.

Follow these easy steps and you’ll soon be jetting across the Caribbean.” But, hang on. We want return flights to Manchester! “We make it so, so easy! Really, which part? The section that harangues you to overpay for extras? Or, the part that lets you hit “Click now so we can process your payment”?

From what I can see, every other part of booking your flights online is fraught with frustration, stress, and incredible pressure. With flashing pop ups warning “Hurry, there’s only two seats left on this flight” and “Booking a trip with us is as simple as three easy clicks” (though plodding through 3 pages of fine print isn’t) it’s enough to make a two-toed sloth uptight (which might explain why they don’t fly).

Like supermarkets, I wonder how many customers abandon their shopping carts after too many failed attempts to book in. Quite apart from the symbolism of airline sites crashing… filling in several pages of online forms and then having the site jam up is probably enough to make many folk give up (though, of course, that never happens to you, does it?). No, you probably tough it out to end up foolishly fighting the system. The flight booking system, that is.

“How many passengers will be on these flights?” Type in “3” and then it defaults back to 4. No, you clear and retype “3” and repeat the process another five times. “We’re sorry, but you cannot choose “3” because these seats are premium” (whatever that means).

“Please nominate your state.” Given that there’s never the option of “hassled”, you look for your own region. Only, it doesn’t exist in the list. Or, you’ve been designated as Hawaiian, yet you live in India. “We’re sorry. You cannot book any flights at this time  [no explanation why]. Please speak with an operator. Charges of $2.50 per minute apply should you choose to speak with one of our telephone consultants.”

Then there’s that not so subtle scam of adding extra charges in the process. The typical “Wow! Flights for a ridiculous $39, but only if you hurry”, blah, blah, blah. So you hurry, only to discover the booking fee, the seat allocation fee, the luggage fee, the guarantee we make it alive fee (aka life insurance), the “Donate to the Struggling Brokers on Wall St” fee, knee room fee, reclining seat fee, instant coffee and dried sandwich fee, and so on. Final tally? A snip at $158 dollars.

So it begs the question, do we enjoy the choice? As onerous as booking flights online is, I guess we do. Would we happily go back to the old days of waiting for the weekend to finish so we could drop into a travel agency during our Monday lunch break and grab some brochures? Then, armed with more questions, would we prefer to pay another visit to get a quote and finally a third to book? I don’t think so.

Most of us are now too busy for that. Then again, given how long it takes and how much stress is created, booking online is no cakewalk either. While airlines say it’s yours and my fault for wanting cheaper airfares, the DIY way of booking flights has become a uniquely stressful event. Having all the tension of day trading, now we not only have the fear of flying but also the fear of mistakenly booking. Mind you, my booking for Sydney turned out to be a lovely trip to Malaysia… Enjoy your flight.

Touch Nothing As You Travel

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