On-line travel booking ... what a crock!

I am just about over the whole on-line travel booking bit.

Around August of last year I tried to book a return flight on Opodo to Australia. I get to the very final step - paying for the ticket - when it turns out that I can't pay using Visa Electron, the only card available to me at the time. It would have been nice if they had made that clear on the front page ... or the second, or the third. By the time I transferred some money over to an account they would accept, logged back in, entered my details again ... my fare had gone up my 250 pound (about $500 US). Tough lesson to learn, that one. Still, now I have a Visa Debit card ...

Then, about two months ago, I try to arrange a city break from London. After much faffing about for hours it seemed that Stockholm via Expedia is viable option. I am just about to book when I see that the first leg of the trip - via Amsterdam - requires a wait of about 12 hours for a connecting flight. Why would I want to wait that long for a connecting flight for what Expedia themselves were promoting as a weekend city break? Still, lesson learnt and now I look very carefully for the '+1' on a booking which looks really, really insignificant but means that you have lost a day in your life to an airport lay-over. (As an aside, twice I had technical glitches with my MSN passport adding further to the time and hassle and frustration of booking a holiday).

About one hour ago I booked a holiday to Greece. This time, I am using Easyjet's very orange website. I find a reasonably priced flight - 440 pound for two people - and book it in. I enter my Visa debit card details to be told by the website that it is not a valid card number. I go back a screen, verify that my details are correct, call my other-half over so that she can verify that I have typed in the correct number ... at which point the website informs me that the price has gone up by 30 pounds - to 470 pound. I feel my teeth grinding, but I proceed nonetheless ... to be informed again that my card details are incorrect, which I can say with much certainty were, in fact, correct. So my other half decides that she will give it a go ... only by now the fare has risen to 501 pound. We collectively hold onto our ankles and purchase the ticket ...

So why did I not just pull out of the transaction? Well ... we were about two hours into the booking-a-flight exercise and had put in a lot of effort and experienced much frustration - we were desperate. And to be fair, Easyjet was still the cheapest on offer. Why didn't I ring Easyjet, you ask. Couldn't call the sales line because our tickets were not within the two weeks required by the 65p per minute sales hotline. Why not call the web help phone number? Not at 1 pound per minute, thanks. What about email them your concerns? To be frank, I cannot find an email contact on their site. (FYI- subsequent to this farce I checked to make certain I had sufficient funds available on my card: check that box too.)

I can only put my poor experience down to a technical glitch on the Easyjet site. I understand that this happens sometimes. Nevertheless, I resent that I have paid a 60 pound premium for this apparent glitch and that if I want to tell Easyjet about it I have to pay them extra for that privilege. I realise that Easyjet are a cheap-and-(hmmmm) cheerful operation - that I should not expect them to maintain a complaints hotline. I do hope, however, that they get wind of this complaint.

On the more broad subject of on-line travel booking that I mention and the rise of prices that occur from one moment to the next, I understand that these movement are the process of the interactions of supply and demand. But my position in the supply-demand equation should not have been unduly hampered by the customer interface- the website - not when online booking is what the aforementioned business do as a core business.

And the feedback I have from my friends and colleagues is that this is not an unusual experience. And please, reader, know that I am a proficient and experienced web user.

Lesson learnt: on-line travel still has a way to go.
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