Monday, 11 January 2010

Vinisud 2010 - a whinge about airlines

I've just gone through the less than pleasurable experience of booking a return flight from Manchester to Toulouse, for a trip to Vinisud in February with my friend and fellow wine merchant Bernard Caille. Vinisud is a huge (by which I mean enormous) wine trade fair, held every 2 years in Montpellier. I'll write more about Vinisud itself  in future posts, but for now, I just want to have a whinge about so-called "budget" airlines.

Having done extensive research on the Internet, our choices of airlines/flights/airports (unless we wanted to pay through the nose with one of the national airlines) was either Luton to Nimes with Ryanair, or Manchester to Toulouse with BMI Baby. For a variety of reasons, the main one being that we get the best part of a day longer for the trip, we chose BMI Baby. It was also - on the face of it - about 20 quid cheaper. A per-person fair of £13.04 for the outward journey and £3.04 for the return journey looked perfect - a total of £32.16 for 2 people, return. Unfortunately, "taxes and charges" of £43.90 for the outward journey and £39 for the return journey bumped the total up to £115. Still not bad, I grant you. But then there is the charge for using a card. Or, to be more precise, a charge for using any card (be it credit or debit) other than a VISA Electron card. Now, I ask you, who on earth actually has a VISA Electron card? I've got lots of cards, but none of them is a VISA Electron. Which is exactly the point. I believe the law stipulates that airlines have to offer at least one "no-fee" payment option. And they know full well that hardly anyone has a VISA Electron card - least of all, the sort of person that might want to fly to the south of France in February!

So I was faced with the option of using a debit card (for which they pay a maximum of about 30p) at a charge of £10, or a credit card (cost to them of less than 2%) at a charge of £15. For some strange reason, I chose the latter, making for a final total of £130.06 all-in, for 2 people. Now, I'm a reasonable man, and I appreciate that £130 is not particularly expensive, for a 2,000 mile round trip for 2 people. But why entice customers with so-called "cheap" fares, only to hit them with actual fares that are 4 times the price? It may not be illegal, but these sort of disingenuous practices certainly leave a sour taste in the mouth, and I wish the Government would do something about it. After all, if I'd taken the option of actually booking seats (a further £30) and the non-cattle departure lounge at the airport (another £30) and baggage for the hold (maximum 15 kilos for another £30), it would have come out at almost 8 times the advertised price.

Frankly, I think I'll just go out and buy myself a Lear Jet - it might work out cheaper!


AlanM said...

It's all a con Leon, I couldn't agree more. We had a flight to Nice in October which 'cost' £8 or so but ended up over £35 with add ons. Still value but I'd rather they just quoted the real price.
Vinisud looks great, wish it was the week before

Truffles said...

It is getting worse Leon. They will soon only accept pre-paid Mastercards ( Apparantly this is because too many people now have an electron card (


Graham said...

The reason they choose an obscure card that incurs no charges is of course to avoid falling fowl of showing misleading up-front fares.
Note that Electron cards are no longer being issued.

Trust you have a good time, these things are hard work in my view.

Juliet said...

Ryanair are going to start charging customers to use the loo! At least on their shorter flights. Brings a whole new meaning to 'spending a penny' (or a euro)

Warren EDWARDES said...

I have a pair of Electron cards. One in GBP for the outward journey and another Spanish savings bank one in EUR for the return.

But neither Electron cards work on Ryanair but they do on Easyjet. The same cards booked in as Visa debits miraculously work on Ryanair.