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Monday, October 02, 2006

Online booking for international travel disappoints

I have finally been able to book my tickets to Singapore and this was after having worked on it for over a couple of months, trying to research and get the best deal. I went through various travel sites (India based) and airline websites. The online travel booking experience was a big disappointment, to say the least. Some of the airline sites did not allow me to book an e-ticket for various reasons, this included Sahara and Thai Airways. I was hoping to get the best deal, as I was booking well in advance, especially from Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines (which should have logically had a special fare for participants to the marathon!!).

Coming to the online travel sites, some of which allow you to book online and others direct you to an offline travel agency. The offline agency told me that the fares for November had not been opened by Thai Airways and the only way to book so many months in advance would be through their website. After a lot of hunting, I finally decided to book it last week through the Thai Air website (the reason I chose Thai, was because I wanted a day's stopover on my return to shop for things, so being the national carrier of Thailand, logically it would give the best deal for a Singapore trip via Bangkok) and to my horror I found that the fares had gone upto 25.5K (INR) from a 22k a couple of weeks back. This is when I decided to press the panic button. I took the help of a friend who happened to be a veteran in the offline travel space, to help get me a good deal on the Singapore trip via Bangkok through his travel company. And within an hour he was able to get me a fair of 18.5K on a major Airline which had its hub in Singapore (with a Bangkok stopover), which makes the deal even more special.

The conclusion I have come to after this experience – the online travel websites based in India do not have the skill sets or the technology or bulk buying capability or something else, to be able to give you the best deal on international travel. And the official website of international airlines does not give you the best ticket deal either.

Your best chance of getting the best ticket deal is to use your offline travel agent, preferably someone who is very big – SOTC, Thomas Cook, etc, as the volume of tickets which they buy for say South East Asia or Europe (plus their tie-up with a particular Airline), helps get the best deal for you (but they might insist on you booking your hotels through them, to make it worth their while).

9 comments:

Athir said...

hi there. so you have your travel plans finalized!

I'll fly from Delhi to Singapore on Nov 26th. I'll be there until until Tues the 28th when I fly to Hanoi to visit family. I arrive back in Singapore on the 2nd at 6pm. Obviously we race on the morning of the 3rd. I fly home to Canada on Monday Dec 4th in the evening.

Any chance of getting together?

Girish said...

Hi! I am in Singapore on 29Nov evening. We can catch up after the race and the other option is Dec 4th morning. I will give you my local contact details as soon as I have them. Looking forward to meeting up.

Athir said...

hi there Girish. I've just arrived back in India and am catching up. by the way, I flew through singapore and had half a day there. nice place. have you worked out your hotel? I'm trying to decide how close to be at the starting line.
Athir

Girish said...

Try and be as close to the starting line as possible. For the Delhi one I was less than a KM away from the start, which was very useful (as you would otherwise need to walk quite a bit to get to the start line). I am staying with my cousin in Singapore, so no hotel for me.
Singapore is a very nice city, but a little too clean & disciplined for a Bomayite!!

Athir said...

Great news about having a cousin there. When I flew through Singapore, the airline had me overnight at a hotel less than 1km from the start line. Had a chance to walk around. It's a nice part of town so the rates are pretty high. My hotel was the cheapest at a realitively pricey rate of $100US per day. Good news for me is that I'll only be there for 2 nights.

Would have been better if the race started in a rougher part of town. ;->

Let's plan to meet at the start line and again after the race.

Athir said...

Did you find out when you can pickup your race kit? I thought I remember something about the main pickup being on the 25th/26th (week before).

I would think there would be something closer to the race date for international runners but did not see anything on the site.

I'm going to be in Singapore on the 25th so it's not a problem for me.

Girish said...

USD100 is quite steep. Yes we will catch up at start as well as the finish line. I will be in touch through email and blog after I get to Singapore, after I get my bearings on the route.
Yes, international runners will be allowed to pick up the bibs upto one day before the run, but I want to personally write to them and get a confirmation on the same, will do that soon. I remember reading about it on some other blog many months back.

Athir said...

If you are not able to work out the details of pickup up your kit, I could get it for you on the 25th and give it to your cousin (as i'm heading to vietnam for 4 days before the marathon).

Just let me know if thats something that would be helpful or not.

Girish said...

Thanks for the offer Athir, so nice of you. I will check with the race organisers if I can collect it on Friday or saturday before the race (I will have two full days), which should be possible for international runners. But, incase there is any issue, I will take up your offer. They will need some paperwork for authorisation and stuff as well. Thanks again.