Travel Tips: Where to Book Your Flight Ticket? (Part 1)


(Part 1 of 3: Booking Online)

This is the first in a three-part series of articles designed to provide you with tips to help you plan accordingly and navigate the nooks and crannies of booking flights.  In our first article, we offer general guidelines that will provide travellers with a brief introduction to booking flights over the internet. 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, the website, and the carrier you choose to fly with. 

"Where to Book Flights Online"
Journeys essentially begin once you book your flight ticket.  There are typically three different ways to book a flight: 
  • a) online either through a carrier's website or a third-party online travel agent (e.g. Travelocity); 
  • b) visiting or telephoning the carrier's ticketing office; or 
  • c) visiting an accredited travel agent.  
In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of booking a flight online.  In the past decade or so, carriers have been scrambling to rationalise their operations preferring that passengers book their flights online as it is a more cost-effective way to doing business.  However, peculiarities in the Philippine market do not always make online bookings practical, especially when we are talking about international flights.

PROS

In today's information age, online booking is likely the most common or popular method of booking a ticket and there are several reasons why that is so.

  • Available 24/7.  Ticket offices typically close for the evenings, weekends and holidays.  However, with online booking, you will be able to book anywhere and anytime as long as you have an internet connection.  Moreover, when booking online, you get real-time indications of whether seats for your preferred flights are available.
  • No queueing to buy the ticket.  Since you own the device, or at least have it to yourself, you wont have to wait to be served to buy your flight ticket. 
  • User-friendly interface.  You can easily check availability of flights on your preferred date and time, and make adjustments in case none are available.  You can perform a booking whether it is a one-way, return or multi-city journey.  You get results within seconds.  In case your fare allows you to select your seat in advance, you will be able to do this online and view the seat maps to determine where your exact seat is.  In addition,  you also get to easily select whether you wish to buy a restricted or flexible ticket. 
  • Purchase add-ons and arrange preferences quickly.  Whether it is an extra-legroom seat, baggage, transport insurance, or snacks, you may be able to arrange advanced purchases online (depending on the carrier).  You won't have to queue for a telephone customer service agent, ticket office staff, or airport staff to assist you.  
  • Greater ability to manage booking online.  Depending on your carrier and the fare conditions attached to your ticket, by booking online, you can amend your travel plans in real-time after it was originally booked.  This also includes the purchase of add-ons after the flight was already booked.  There is no need to wait until the call centre/ticket office opens. 
  • Instant linking of your booking to your frequent flyer programme.  When you received your frequent flyer membership card, it always said that you need to quote it at booking and present it at the check-in desk to ensure that the miles are accrued.  Once youve provided it at booking, your frequent flyer membership number is linked to this booking; no need to show your card at the airports check-in desk.  Additionally, if you previously set-up your frequent flyer number to be managed online and wish to book a flight later, you dont have to fill-out your details from scratch.  Just input your user ID and password and all the pertinent fields will be populated automatically. 
  • Slightly lower faresOne reason why carriers are encouraging passengers to book online is because it lowers operating costs for them.  In turn, this is passed on to the passengers as the ticketing service fee will either be much lower or not applicable.  In some cases, the lowest fares may be offered online but this depends on the carrier.

"Where to Book Flights Online"

CONS

Having said all of the benefits, booking tickets online also has its disadvantages or important considerations:
  • Visa issues.  For Filipinos, booking tickets online can be tricky not least because only 58 countries allow visa-free access for Filipino tourists and business travellers.  For most of the visa-requiring countries, they require applicants to produce evidence of flight bookings but advise them not to actually purchase their tickets yet until a favourable decision has been made.  Unfortunately, unlike booking flights from a ticket office where you are given a window to complete the purchase, online booking of flights requires payment immediately.  Obviously, you will be going against the embassys advice by booking online.  In the event that your visa application is refused, you will still not be able to refund a non-refundable ticket.  You may try to purchase the least restrictive economy class ticket and cancel it later once your visa is issued, but there is no guarantee that the lower fare will still be available at the time.  
  • Additional queue at the airport for travel tax/TIEZA payment.  The sight of collecting terminal fees already adds insult to injury: the injury being airports like NAIA being ranked as among the world’s worst airports.  But did you know that in addition to this, another tax is collected?  The tax is called the travel tax, or more properly known as the Tourist, Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) tax.  When your ticket is purchased online, this tax is not automatically collected.  In such a case, if you are a Filipino citizen or a resident alien in the Philippines for at least one year, you need to queue at the designated TIEZA desk and pay this tax before proceeding to your carriers check-in desk.  The TIEZA desk only accepts cash denominated in Philippine Pesos.  You may have saved yourself from one queue, but you may just be queueing somewhere else. 
  • Credit/debit card required, at least for international flights.  As the transaction is online, nobody is around to physically take your cash.  Hence, a credit or debit card (Visa or Mastercard) will often be required to pay for the tickets.  For some reason, not everyone is able to get either card.  Some airlines accept PayPal as a medium for payment but to even use PayPal as a medium for payment in limited circumstances, you still need a credit/debit card to add funds to your account.  In some cases, further verification will be required where the card used to pay for the ticket should be presented at the check-in desk or a ticket office.  This may be problematic if the person booking your flight is not travelling with you.
  • Foreign currency issues.  International flights that originate in the Philippines are billed in US Dollars unless purchased from a local low-cost carrier.  When you purchase online, you will not be able to determine the exact peso amount until you receive your credit card statement. This is very peculiar to the Philippines. In most other countries, ticket prices are quoted in the home currency of where your outbound flight departs from regardless of carrier. For example, Hong Kong to Singapore flights are quoted in Hong Kong Dollars; and Amsterdam to London flights are quoted in Euros. Because international flights originating in the Philippines use US Dollars instead of Philippine Pesos, the amount will be subject to foreign currency conversion charges, which is up to 4% of the original transaction. 
  • Limited functionality for interline journeys/codeshare flights.  When you book a flight at the website of airline A but one of your flights will be operated by airline B, the full range of options to manage your booking online might not be available.  Although airline B allows tickets for flights it operates to be sold on airline As website, the latter may only have limited access to the formers database.  Hence you may experience some difficulty requesting for a preferred seat or a special meal.  Moreover, the booking reference code given by airline A is only good for airline As website; airline B may have a different reference code, which may not even be known to you.  And if you attempt to contact the hotline of either carrier to sort your requests out, you may be referred back and forth between both carriers.  Bottom line: Airline A might not help you because it is not the airline operating the flight, and Airline B might not help you because you did not originally book your flight with them directly.  You may also experience difficulty if you have a frequent flyer membership account with airline A, which supports flight redemption bookings online, such functionality might not be extended to its partner airlines.

As you can see, booking your flight online generally has advantages but there are 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 carrier to identify the benefits of booking online that may not be available when booking through a ticket office or travel agent.  In the second part of our three-part series of where to book flights, we will evaluate booking your tickets through an airline ticket office. 

-HybridAce101

7 comments:

  1. PAL now do collect the travel tax online before proceeding to the final page.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know that, Qatar also does it but the fact is they are currently the exceptions to the norm.

      I think the reason for this is certain passengers are entitled to discounts or full exemptions from payment. At least when passengers proceed to the ticket office, travel agency or TIEZA desk, a staff member can verify that a passenger is genuinely entitled to avail of the exemption.

      Delete
  2. When do part II will release? Sa ngayon, ito pa rin?...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I aim to make this a weekly thing so most likely the 2nd part should be up by Friday or Saturday.

      Delete
  3. What do you suggest, pay the TIEZA TAX at the airport or visit their Makati office before your departure date to pay?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great Post! In addition, I would say that deploying an online ticketing and reservation system for your users can increase your sales and generate more revenue. Here is an article:
    Online Booking and Reservation Systems that explains the advantages of online booking and reservation system for your company.

    ReplyDelete

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