I’m sitting in the budget terminal of Singapore’s Changi airport this morning, getting ready to board a flight for a day trip up to Kuala Lampur. There are plenty of reasons I decided to do this as a last minute getaway – mostly because there are some fun airports and airlines to be had – and one of them was because it figured to be a pretty cheap trip.
Pricing out the flights my go-to tool was the website www.utiket.com. It is pretty much a Kayak of SE Asian airlines, scraping their websites and compiling the results, but it also includes the LCCs, which is particularly useful in this part of the world. Even better, it knows about all the LCCs, not just the ones I’ve previously heard of, and it knows alternate airports, too. So when it returned the option to fly on FireFly Airlines to Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah airport in Subang rather than KLIA, I jumped on that opportunity.
The booking for FireFly was a bit of a challenge because I was inside 24 hours from the scheduled departure; they shut down online booking at that point. And the internet connection in my hotel was craptacular so Skype wasn’t working. I took a gamble and just headed out to the airport, booking it as a walk-up fare. The price was the same as what I was quoted via Skype when I sortof was able to chat with them so in the end no complaints there.
For the return I’m booked on Tiger Airways from KLIA back to Singapore. That trip is the one where the pricing got all sorts of wonky. I’ll blame or credit that in large part to the fact that the Tiger Airways website is reasonably modern and functional, able to offer all the up-sells that airlines love for ancillary revenue. The base fare for my ticket is only 33 Malaysian Ringits (about USD$10). No surprise, really, that they are looking to make some extra cash, though some of the methods are less than reasonable to me.
First up, the MYR33 fare advertised excludes MYR32 in taxes and fees. These are real taxes and fees so it isn’t that the airline is hiding additional fare components from the customer, but it is a bit annoying that the numbers are not reflected in the initial quote.
After selecting the flight there are a couple up-sells offered. First up is the ability to switch to a flexible ticket. That would increase my fare about 15x so I’m not interested, but the up-sell is offered.
Next up is the ability to assign a seat in advance. Row 1 costs the most, then rows 2-5, then the rest through the exit row. With basically the whole seat map open I wasn’t worried about it, even though the prices are pretty low.
After passing on the seat assignment charge I got the option to buy pre-boarding service from the airline. Only $5 to get to the front of the line. Once again, I decided to pass.
I was given the option for checked baggage, with various price points depending on the weight of the bag. There was also an option for excess baggage. With this just being a day trip for me up from Singapore that wasn’t an issue so again I passed.
And then I finally got to the check-out screen, where the final price was displayed: MYR85. Huh!?!? Where did the extra MYR20 come from?
Apparently there is a "Convenience fee" for the luxury of booking online with a credit card. I thought that maybe booking at the airport would avoid that (similar to Spirit Air) but at the airport this morning the base fare was triple the online rate and there was still a booking penalty at the airport. And it was more than the CC fee online.
So I did what cam naturally, rolled my eyes and then sat down in the food court to take out my laptop and book the online fare. No sense it wasting an extra $35 on the bargain fare.
Just another fun experience with the random vagaries that are airline pricing models around the world.
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