Selling tickets at massive discounts. Travelstart 10 year anniversay stories 5/30

 

We always
thought that a customer should be incentives for using the Internet. Early days
the incentive was always about the price. Today the convenience is the
incentive.

But the transparency
of Internet incentivise people for searching browsing and scouting around for
the killers deals. And sometime the deal just shows up like a gift from above.

We have had
numerous occasions when airlines load the wrong fares. Normally it doesn’t take
long for them to realize and rectify the error. But we had this one case back
in 2003.  

One of my
colleagues came to my room saying that we had another case of a fare loaded
with the wrong conversion rate. This was a new airline start up, that I have forgotten
the name of. They flew Brussels to Johannesburg for 1000 sek, appox 100 Euro.
The fare was supposed to be 1000€. She said that perhaps I could call a couple
of relatives and inform them before we notified the airline. We had our doubts
because we didn’t want to take advantage the airlines blunder.

But we did.
My less righteous part of me caved in and I called my brother who lived in
Johannesburg. I told him that if he wanted some visitor from Sweden, now was
probably the right time to check our website for some great fares.

My brother
is a one man marketing machine and it took about 30 minutes to get the grape
wine cooking. People started to book Brussels – Johannesburg like I have never
seen before. We made no marketing whatsoever more than this one phone call.

The next
morning bookings were flooding in with friends and relatives to my brother.

I talked to
my colleagues and we all felt uncomfortable about capi.jpgtalizing on the slip-up.
So we called the airline and informed them. You could hear that this was a start-up.
No one knew how to fix the pricing. We knew we did our part and we also shut of
the possibility to book any more of the cheap tickets.

We informed
the people who made the bookings that they needed to pay within a couple of
hours or we needed to cancel the bookings. Some did, some didn’t.

People who
travelled with the airline later said they were great. The load factor was
never more than around 30% so we figured that we didn’t do the airline to much
harm, in fact we helped them get any revenues.

They later
filed for bankruptcy, no wonder.

The
Internet is still a great place for incredible offers with or without errors.
Most airlines have a huge overcapacity and they need to offload them everywhere
they can. The Internet is the scrap yard of overcapacity. Supply is always
going to exceed demand in aviation on one route or another so the days of
incredible deals are far from over. It has just begun!

 

PS

Even if you
find a great fare the airline might actually come back and haunt either you or
the travel agent. We have seen numerous cases where the airline simply cancels reservations
leaving innocent customers helpless. In these cases WE as an online travel
agents intermediate for the customer to receive his rights.

We as
agents have no contractual obligation to inform airlines about errors in
pricing. But we do.

I am very
much convinced that online travel agent does bring transparency and order in an
industry that in many ways are characterized by gangster tactics. Airlines have
one agenda – to fill the aircrafts. Our agenda is to serve.

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