A cynical label given by some maybe, but itï¿½s also very true. By its very location, Singapore is a gateway to parts of the world many can only dream of visiting. So for Expats posted here, one of the biggest pluses is the opportunity it throws up to travel. But how to make arrangements? How to find the cheapest flights, the best deals and more importantly, how to avoid an end-to-end trudge of Orchard Road? Here, Claire Porter takes a look at booking flights online and puts the main players to the test.
- Singapore Airlines
So widely known, used and some would argue, loved, is Singapore Airlines here in the Lion City, that it is referred to by expats and locals alike simply as SQ - and that is the logic behind the name of the bookings page of its website: www.sq-etravel.com. Because of that, it is a little hard to find. Itï¿½s probably easier, though longer, to go via the home page at www.singaporeair.com, then click on "Online Booking".
The home page is colourful, happily, for some, adorned with the famous Singapore Airlines girls, and the link for online booking is easy to spot. Finding and pricing flights is simple. Browsers are asked to fill out the destination, dates and class, though there is no option to check "any time" for flights, so you do have to select a specific time which is cumbersome and lengthy if your first flight option is full.
The downside is that in order to book online, you must register - a growing trend in corporate sites. Registration, however, is also simple and fairly painless.
Time Online: 4 minutes
Success? Yes, I found a flight, though it was more expensive than Iï¿½d hoped.
Efficiency (Out of ten): 9.
Being a Brit, and having an obsession with our beautiful language (and, of course, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and talking incessantly about THAT hot summer of ï¿½76), the first thing to bear in mind about this website is that there is no ï¿½uï¿½ after the ï¿½qï¿½.
Having reassured myself with a peek in the good old Oxford English Dictionary that there are only three words in the English language to be afforded that luxury, and insisting on keying in Quantas eight times, I discovered the first problem. Ok, so it was my problem and not Qantasï¿½s, but it may fool others, so beware!
Having found the site at www.qantas.com.au, things went downhill. Yep, the "internet bookings" link is simple to find but again, I found myself having to register without even checking flight schedules.
The registration was lengthy and would not allow me to simply fill in my name and email address. It rejected my registration each time until I had completed every personal detail, right down to full address and telephone numbers.
Eventually, I got to "new booking" and clicked on. It was then I was offered only destinations within Australia. I wanted a flight from Singapore to London. I am sure the site must offer that service, somewhere, and it was one of the best designed Iï¿½d looked at, but it didnï¿½t help me, or my keyboard which was slammed on my now not-so-new desk in a not-so-dignified huff.
Time Online: 12 minutes
Success? No. I gave up.
- Malaysia Airlines
It all started well. It was easy to find at www.malaysia-airlines.com.my and I confidently clicked on to "online schedule" but that was simply that, a schedule of flight times, flight numbers and the aircraft type, but no price.
I clicked on "destinations" but that was simply that, a list of destinations. I then tried "electronic ticketing" thinking Iï¿½d finally cracked the problem, but, well, that was simply that, all about e-ticketing which is apparently a way of travelling without a paper ticket thanks to "electronic data transfer between the airline and a bank". All very interesting, but I still had no price.
I clicked on "domestic flights" in slight desperation but that listed only flights in and around Malaysia but I was still looking for London and the all-important price.
I tried "explore" which gave me a history of the airline, "flying high" which gave the range of onboard services and "KLIA" which told me everything I needed to know about KL airport.
I can only assume you cannot book online with Malaysia Airlines which is a shame since the company seems to consistently be the cheapest. Still, there was no dreaded registration to fill in!
Time Online: 17 minutes
Efficiency? 6. Loads of information but no flight prices.
- Ken Air Travels
Again, very easy to use, but this also relies on bookings either in person, over the ï¿½phone or via e-mail. The site itself is simple to navigate. Find flights and prices either by clicking on "discounted fare" and clicking on the section of the world map required, or via "airfares quotes" which is in red and white at the top left hand of the home page.
The prices are some of the best Iï¿½ve come across but it is an obviously popular company and wait times are long. I went in person to the SunTec City branch and had to wait in line for about 30 minutes just to see a travel consultant. When I had e-mailed asking for flights, the response was pretty slow too.
However, Ken Air makes up for this by having excellent, knowledgeable staff who are some of the friendliest in Singapore - they got me a great flight deal too!
Time Online: 8 minutes
Success? Not online, but in person
When it works, booking online can be a saviour - both in time and in sanity - but when it doesnï¿½t, it can equally be time consuming hassle. If you find a site that does work for you, bookmark it and recommend it to others - there are some great deals to be had out there in cyber travel agency world... it just might take a little bit of old fashioned word of mouth to find them!
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