Booking flights online … how times have changed

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Online booking – friend or foe?

Remember the days when buying a flight online was a pretty straightforward exercise? Choose your destination, your dates, input your details and voila, the ticket was yours.

Then the little extras started to creep in: you had to pay extra to get fed on the flight, check-in luggage cost more, and you could even opt to pay a carbon offset fee if you were feeling environmentally-friendly.

These days it’s much, much worse. I went online the other day to book a few domestic flights and couldn’t believe how complicated it’s become. I felt like I was wading through a bank application not buying a weekend escape to Queensland.

All those little things you used to get for free have now become optional extras. Sure, the flights are super cheap – as little as $69 one-way to the Gold Coast if you’re not fussy about the time you travel – but it’s definitely a no-frills affair. For my Jetstar flight I had umpteen extras that could very quickly add up:

The little extras

• After selecting my flight I could choose the starter fare, the ‘Plus bundle’ (our most popular bundle) for an extra $19 or the ‘Max bundle’ for an additional $110. Each bundle had a variety of different benefits;

• An extra $17 each way to check-in luggage or as Jetstar puts it, ‘Add baggage now and save’;

• An extra $0.99 for an SMS itinerary – something they should send you for free.

But the ones that really got me were the extra costs relating to seats:

• $25 for extra leg room – this means you can sit in the exit row where you’re paying for the privilege of being ‘willing to assist in the unlikely event of an emergency’;

• $12 extra to sit up the front – same deal with helping out in an emergency;

• and $5 to choose a standard seat i.e. do you prefer an aisle or window?

What?  $5 to select a seat? On a short domestic flight?

When I didn’t take up this generous offer I was given a warning: ‘If you skip seat selection a seat will be assigned for you randomly from what is still available at check-in.’

Huh? Kind of like we’ve always done?

Wait, there’s more:

• insurance for $12.95

• pre-purchase parking for $80

• Hotels from $106.60 per night

• Cars at $45 a day

• Activities … including a VIP Pass Jetstar for $109.99 per adult

• Airport transfers $20

• Carbon offset for $1.28

• Star kids – make a contribution to help fund projects in destinations such as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.


TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.


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