Saturday, August 27, 2011

Painful Flight Booking

There are probably far worse experiences than I just had with Virgin Australia, but the flight I just booked with them felt like they were grabbing money from me with one hand and throwing it back in my face with the other.

Forgetting about some minor UI bugs and issues of that sort, here are the grabbing and throwing annoyances I experienced:

  1. Grabbing: I chose "cheapest flights", yet the site directed me through pages focused on dates rather than prices, and then still offered me seat upsells that could turn a $200 flight into a $700 flight.
  2. Throwing: I tried to choose the carbon offset, but that was incompatible with my payment type, about which I was only informed later.
  3. Grabbing: Virgin used the dark pattern of opting me into travel insurance... Well, it looked like travel insurance, but after I read through the PDS, it felt far more like "suck it up" insurance.
  4. Throwing: My session timed out while taking about 10 minutes to read the insurance PDS, so I had to re-enter all the information, rather than the site re-entering it for me. If they were worried about the flight not being available, they still could have attempted to re-process the entered data.
  5. Grabbing: The luggage is $12 per person per flight. I know this is pretty standard nowadays, but the honest way to phrase these sales would be inclusive of luggage, with a discount for removing it.
  6. Grabbing: There is a credit card "surcharge" i.e. separate from the "included taxes and fees" that is calculated not on the size of the credit card payment, but on the number of segments, so: 3 people (one an infant travelling for free) x 2 directions x 2 segments per direction x $4.5 unit = get stuffed
  7. Throwing: Trying the non-credit-card option, called POLi, was rejected because I was using a Mac, so I had to go and do it all again from a PC to avoid the ridiculous credit card rort. This system is an plugin that navigates to your bank, getting you to fill in a few details, and then it basically just BPays Virgin. Why I couldn't just BPay them, I don't know. I guess it's so they know the payment has been made before they conclude the transaction, rather than trusting the customers to pay later. Meanwhile, I now have some rogue bit of software on my computer that has the capability of stealing my money... Awesome.
So, I hope someone from Virgin Australia reads this and makes some improvements:
  1. If someone says they want the cheapest flights, don't upsell them on flights. Or don't give the cheapest flights option in the first place.
  2. Make the carbon offset compatible with POLi, otherwise, to pay $9 in carbon offset, I'd have to pay you $50 and that's not going to happen.
  3. Either offer real travel insurance, remove it, or at the bare minimum, make it opt in, instead of opt out.
  4. Increase the session timeout to a minimum of 1 hour, or at least implement a way for the already-entered data to be reprocessed at the click of a button
  5. I know you'll never clear up the luggage thing, but you should really consider it anyway.
  6. Make the credit card "surcharge" a fixed percentage. There is nothing about the payment method that differs when one trip requires 1, 2, 4 or any other number of individual flights. It's really scammy to surcharge like that.
  7. Implement a solution for OS X and Linux, or just allow people to BPay themselves, letting them know that the flights will only be held for a set amount of time until they do. I know this problem could be difficult, technically, but there has to be something that can be developed other than taking over one OS. As a bare minimum, warn users at the outset that they won't be able to pay via POLi when they're on an unsupported system, so they don't waste their time.

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