Monday, April 03, 2017

A Thought on Airlines

I recently bought a ticket on AirBerlin, which is my preferred airline for traveling between my home in Berlin and my favorite destination of Budapest.

It was a horrible experience.  Their preferred payment system, the security of which seems questionable, failed to process my payment (from my Berlin bank no less); it was impossible to return to a booking in progress if the browser window closed (hello, cookies?); and in the middle of retrying this, literally within minutes, they raised the price of one of the flights.  And that's just the technical part.  It was impossible to figure out which fare class would actually be cheapest once luggage and seats were added; it wasn't obvious who operates the flight (Alitalia, says SeatGuru, which would be a first for this route); and in general things were designed to keep the customer in the dark.

Unfortunately, there's nothing particularly unique about that.  Airlines are in general hostile to transparency, and constantly try to squeeze you for an extra five Euros here, an extra $19.95 there.  (Here at least the cheapos like WizzAir are honest: pay for the good seat or your trip will suck.  Pay for your booze, but they'll be happy to sell it to you.  Ryan and Easy, however, remain below contempt.)

The strange thing in all this is that I expect my flight to be pleasant, professionally flown, and more or less on time.

And it's like that almost every time.

We buy a ticket from a company that obviously hates its customers, and we then put our lives in that same company's hands.  And somehow this works.


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