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You may have seen a rather comical television commercial advertising this new Internet service. The gimmick is very simple - name your own price for airline tickets. The advert shows lots of silly oafs who thought that because they got a cheap airline ticket, then they would have to load their own baggage or be transported on the luggage trolley. My particular favourite moment is when the air stewardess opens the overhead compartment and instructs the man to come out. Poor chap - he probably realised that there was more legroom up there.
Name your own price? Sounds good to me. I'm off to Sydney for a fiver. But is it that simple?
The actual premise of the scheme is this:
1 - Identify on-line where you want to depart from and where you want to go. 2 - State your preferred dates of travel. 3 - Supply your email address and a preferred price per ticket. 4 - priceline.co.uk then search for an airline that has tickets available and is willing to offer them to you at the preferred price.
You are therefore not really able to "Name Your Own Price" - this is essentially a new method of haggling. The airlines are not obliged to accept any offers, nor are there any guarantees that a flight will be available. The website indicates that through "reasonable" offers you can save up to 20% - a similar discount to that offered by High Street travel agents for late deals. The two schemes are largely the same, in that the airlines are simply trying to fill unbooked seats - after all a discounted passenger is still worth more than an empty seat. ANd of course, some hapless fools may even bid over the odds for their fare.
There are a few qualifying criteria for priceline that may not immediately have occurred to you:
1 - You can't travel and return the same day - which would rule out many business passengers flying to meetings. 2 - You are asked to agree to "at least one connection", as this will increase the likelihood of the airline accepting your offer - because you are then effectively filling two unbooked seats rather one. This would certainly extend your journey time. 3 - The price you "name" does not include a £5 admin fee nor any local charges - this could be between £20 and £40. 4 - Once booked you will not be able to exchange, upgrade or return your tickets - refunds are also not permitted. 5 - Any fees paid will not be eligible for frequent flyer points, or any other loyalty schemes offered my the major airlines
None of these are insurmountable - but should be considered before using priceline.
The website itself is simply laid out, and very easy to use. The pages load very quickly, and it is very simply to request a "Name Your Own Price" fare. The website promises to come back with an offer within the hour - I was going to try a dummy ticket, but I suspected that I would only be able to do this if I supplied my credit card details, and would end up with a non-refundable ticket. The website can be customised so that you can track the offers that you have made on fares. There is also a list of the top ten cities to speed up searches on destinations that are frequently requested.
The Company are up-front with all the criteria and charges listed above - I was impressed that they brought these matters to the attention of the potential buyer, and felt that I could trust the Company. Furthermore, the "Name Your Own Price" scheme also extends to hotel rooms and car hire - two options that I would be more likely to use. The only means of contacting priceline is via email - this could be argued in support of total online interaction, but could be frustrating if you need to contact them urgently or make a complaint.
The idea behind this website is relatively sound - although not particularly ground breaking. My local travel agent has indicated that this sort of thing will kill off all those "late deals" in the travel agent windows - I'm not so sure. Whether you "Name Your Own Price" or not, return flights to Siberia will always be going cheap. Which is kind of where this comes unstuck - there are popular destinations and there are not so popular destinations. The latter will always be cheaper than the former - so I suspect that the sort of deals going on the former will be limited.
Great reveiw of the site. Do update if you actually use them! I'm considering using them for a hotel room at the moment.
kingbing 29.04.2002 17:31
What happens if the flight change is really long or the times are seriously inconvenient? It's not such a problem for long-haul flights but for short trips (couple of days or weekend)within Europe, it could be fatal, such that you wouldn't want the flight any more.
MadeinScotland 26.11.2001 18:52
sounds good, I am going to give it a try as I am google-eyed from searching for a flight - take care kate