Travel Tips: Where to Book Your Flight Ticket? (Part 2)


(Part 2 of 3: Airlines Ticket Offices)

This is the second part of a series of articles designed to provide you with tips to help you plan and navigate the nooks and crannies of booking flights. In our second article, we offer general guidelines that will provide travellers with a brief introduction to booking flights at your airline's ticket office. However, it is important to note that there are always exceptions to the points mentioned here and that experiences will vary depending on your needs and the airline you choose to fly with. At the end of the day, the traveller must decide the booking method that is most suitable to their needs.

pal ticket office
Philippine Airlines Ticket Office / Image Source: Philippine Airlines
Journeys essentially begin once you book your flight ticket.  As many of you know, there are typically three common ways to do this: 
In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of booking your flight through the airline’s ticket office. In the past decade or so, carriers have been scrambling to rationalise their operations preferring that passengers book their flights online. However, despite an increase in online bookings, passengers still queue at ticket offices. In many cases, it can sometimes takes each passenger up to an hour or so before they are actually served. But what this demonstrates is that there is value in proceeding to a ticket office. The same can also be said about making contact through a call centre provided by the airline.

PROS

If you walk-in to a ticket office, there are several benefits you can enjoy that may otherwise not exist if you do it online.  Although you will need to queue first at the ticket office, you can save yourself a bigger queue at the airport later on.  In addition, nothing beats the personalised service that you experience at a ticket office.
  • Personalised and expert service. By proceeding to a ticket office, you can be assured that someone will assist you in your booking. The staff are well-trained to deal with a wide variety of situations a passenger may have, while answering his or her questions. When this is not possible, they can at least refer the passenger to someone who can. In case there are technicalities in a booking that you may not understand, or your trip has relatively complex twists, the staff can note your requests and help you sort them out. This way, you can also be assured that you are not committing any human errors when arranging your trip. 
  • Better handling of corporate/group accounts.  Utilising the personalised and expert service of booking directly with the carriers ticket office will also lead to better handling of group/corporate bookings.  Ticket offices have dedicated desks that can handle group/corporate clients.  They also have a dedicated hotline for corporate/group accounts.  For an organisation, this will free its employees from making flight arrangements by themselves.  Staff at the ticket office may also advise their group and corporate clients of better prices available rather than purchasing individually. 
  • Reservations and ticketing dont have to be done at the same time.  When you wish to reserve a flight, you do not necessarily have to commit yourself to buying it yet.  That is if you ring the ticket office or visit it yourself.  You will be given a window or grace period to complete your purchase and sometimes, this may be extended depending on the airline and the fare you are due to pay.  This can be useful if you are applying for a visa and are uncertain over the outcome.  Remember, if your visa gets refused, you will still not be able to refund a non-refundable ticket.  Reserving through a ticket office first helps you overcome this problem (most embassies in fact discourage payment of the ticket until a favourable decision is made regarding your application).  But even if you dont need a visa for your destination, this feature comes in handy if youre still looking for the best deal among different airlines.  Just remember, restricted/promo fares tend to have a shorter window/deadline.  
  • Promo tickets sorted out here.  While promo tickets tend to be sold online, some of them are also (and only) available if coursed through the ticket office.  For example, promos that feature airline tie-ups with credit card firms (e.g. buy one take one for certain credit card holders) are availed solely through the ticket office. 
  • Frequent flyer redemption is possible here.  In case you prefer to redeem your miles face-to-face with staff, or your carrier doesnt have capabilities for online mileage redemption, frequent flyer redemption is only possible through a ticket office and not a travel agency. 
  • Travel tax collected beforehandIf you purchase a ticket for an international flight online and are a Filipino citizen, you are required to queue at the TIEZA counter before proceeding to the check-in desk.  However, when you purchase your ticket at a ticket office, the travel tax is collected at the same time that you are ticketed.  You get to pay in any method accepted by the ticket office (e.g. cash, debit/credit card). 
  • Get a quote in home currency.  Even if fares are officially advertised in US Dollars for international flights originating in the Philippines, staff can tell you the final price converted into Philippine Pesos.  This way you know how much you exactly need to pay.  However, please hurry because this converted amount may fluctuate. 
  • Payment card verification performed.  If you intend to use a debit/credit card to complete your transaction at the ticket office, there is no need to present it to airport staff anymore for verification.  This is because the ticketing agent has already seen the debit/credit card herself when the ticket was purchased.  You may find this useful if the card owner is not travelling with you and will be unable to accompany you to the airport to show the card to check-in staff there.  
cebu pacific ticket office
Cebu Pacific Ticket Office / Image Source: Cebu Pacific
CONS

Before you pop into your airlines nearest ticket office, there are a few things you need to consider.
  • Limited hours. Business hours of an airline’s ticketing office are around the same time as the business hours of most other firms. This means that you need to take time-off from your work schedule to process your bookings here. Ticket offices are closed during the evenings, weekends and holidays. The call centre operated by the carrier however, may be open for longer hours. Philippine Airlines operates a 24/7 call centre. 
  • Longer queues and understaffed desks.  It can take nearly 10-20 minutes to process some requests.  Moreover, given the increased trend of online ticket purchases, it is natural that some desks are understaffed, hence making only a limited number of staff available to attend to your requests.  Expect to spend at least 30 minutes in the ticket office. 
  • Limited branches for foreign airlines.  Foreign airlines typically have only one branch in the cities it serves.  Carriers like Cathay Pacific may have a branch in other cities like Cebu.  In either case, you will need to travel a considerable distance to sort your requests out directly with airline representatives or redeem promo tickets. 
  • Limited functionality when managing bookings onlineIf you purchase your tickets through a ticket office, it is unlikely that you can amend or cancel your booking online.  You will need to contact the ticketing office by phone to amend parts of your bookings (subject to fare rules/restrictions).  Seat selections, the inputting of details (e.g. passport information, frequent flyer numbers), and check-in however may still be performed online. 
  • Service fee/surcharge applies.  As a way to encourage online bookings and offset the costs of brick-and-mortar operations, carriers may apply a service charge starting at P200 for domestic flights, or around $5-$20 for international flights for bookings made through a ticket office.  The same charge may also apply if you amend your flight dates through the ticket office. However, it is important to note that you also have an opportunity to do it yourself online.   
Finally, carriers have different rules about whether its foreign ticket office can make amendments to your ticket.  In most cases, you can visit an airlines foreign ticket office in the city that you will depart from.  

As you can see, booking your flight through an airline ticket office generally has advantages but there are also important things to consider before choosing to do it this way.  It is not for everyone and you should be aware of certain caveats.  As always, you should check with your airline to see what benefits are available booking through its ticket office that may not be available when booking online or via travel agent.

In the final part of this series next week, I will walk you through booking via a travel agency. 

-HybridAce101

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