Have you ever wondered why when you try to make an online booking to travel to or from Samoa - and other destinations - when you select a flight for two to travel, the line tells you that ONLY 2 SEATS ARE LEFT AT THIS PRICE?
So that you book thinking this is true, only to find out an hour later that if you’d put in four passengers to travel, the line would have told you that ONLY 4 SEATS ARE LEFT AT THAT PRICE?
Well this happened to us but with an added twist.
On the 9 June 2016 at 11-30pm, I received news from Samoa that no one wants to hear, so I immediately went online to book two tickets on the next available flight from Auckland to Samoa.
I logged on to the airlines website at 11-33 pm and the airline was showing only two seats left in total, on the next available flight at 4-30 pm the next day, 10 June, at NZ$964-67 each one way AK to Samoa.
Now believing that there were only two seats, left I was about to pay when I received a phone call from a family member, asking if I’d booked yet.
I explained I was just about to pay as there were only two seats left at $964-67, and I did not wish to miss out, only to be told that they had just logged in to book on the same flight, and they were shown only 4 seats were left at $655-67, some $309-00 cheaper.
Now how can this be, since I had logged in a few minutes before our other family members?
I tried for the next hour to log out so that I could get back into the airline’s website, only to be continually shown only two seats were left, at $964-67. So in the end and not to miss out, I booked and paid for the tickets.
Now for curiosity’s sake, I logged back in after an hour, only to be offered that 4 seats were available at $655-67.
On 10 June, I contacted the airline for an explanation, but to date, after being passed around between Customer Services, Australia sales manager, and NZ Manager, I still do not have a reply almost one month later.
Without being cynical and without an explanation, one can only think the airlines online booking system is playing games and not revealing the true amount of seats available to the travelling public, to gain the most financial advantage which I feel the NZ Commerce Commission and the ACCC in Australia, should look into.
The spread of fares during the year with the airlines to Samoa can range from $450-00 return, right up to $2650-00 return, so why can’t the airlines set a reasonable fare all year round as when we need to travel urgently, or bring the children home from school in NZ, or come to see family at Christmas time or for Church conferences, so that it seems we are forced to pay higher fares at these times.
It was only 3 months ago with the same airline that when I paid by debit card for 2 return airfares from AK to Samoa, they took the fares twice from my bank account, and it took five days to have the funds returned to my account, after numerous phone calls.
Now wait. I’ve got a response from the airline.
It says: I have just received a reply from our team in Australia who manage the booking process on our on-line site.
As you will appreciate, we sell fares at different levels based on the demand for a particular flight. Once the lower fare class/ classes have been taken, the next highest fare is available for sale.
In the case of our online site, where a customer is on the site searching for a fare, that fare is effectively held (and removed from display to other potential customers) on the assumption that the customer will go through the process and purchase the fare.
There may be multiple customers searching a particular flight at any one time. Should the customer go through the process and eventually not purchase, then that lower class fare will come back into the inventory.
It is a very dynamic process, and it does result in the circumstance you’ve faced, where a fare was not available at one point in time, but was available shortly after that point in time.
I trust this information helps explain the circumstances a little better.
So with the above explanation, it is clear that the airline is simply playing around with the fares and locking people in, even though they may only be looking for a fare comparison, which may be affecting those who wish to make a booking at the best fare possible.
In my opinion, what is happening is not fair, and the airlines should offer a fair and transparent booking system, for all to choose from.
Have you also noticed that when you end up on the plane, and you look around at so many empty seats and you say to yourself, but they said only two seats were left, and I purchased them so how can there be so many empty seats? Are we being manipulated and unfairly overcharged?
Did you also know that the major airline operating into Samoa, also has a large shareholding in the other operator, so I say let’s have an open sky’ policy, and give other airlines the opportunity to give our Samoan people a fair deal, as we are forced to pay some of the highest airfares per KM, and at times we can fly from NZ to London return cheaper, than we can fly return NZ to Samoa.
It would be interesting to find out what your readers’ thoughts on the airlines operating into Samoa, and if they have experienced any similar issues.
Kindest regards to all your readers,
Ray Bancroft <firstname.lastname@example.org>