Tuesday, 11 March 2008

$40 to Singapore?

I think I may have just scored two return tickets to Singapore for forty bucks...

Back at the start of the year we booked flights to Newcastle for a weekend in April, for our parents' birthdays. Usually we go with Virgin or Jetstar because Qantas don't fly direct to Newcastle, but this time we decided to check out the new Tiger Airways. Got a pretty good deal too - $40 each way.

In mid-February, Tiger sent me an email saying the flight times had changed, from Saturday morning / Sunday evening to Sat afternoon / Sun lunchtime. All their route schedules seem to be still tentative since they just started flying. Anyway, the change cut 5 hours off an already rushed visit, which was no good for us.

After they sent another reminder email and SMS asking me to accept the new times, I finally called them last Wednesday to cancel our flights. They don't usually allow cancellations, but it was their fault we couldn't make it, so I assumed they'd make an exception.

So I finally get through to an operator, who sounds like she's in Singapore. I tell her we can't make the new flight times and would like to cancel. She says "Tiger doesn't allow cancellations, but we can change the date or destination of your tickets, no charge". I said I'd have to get back to her when I'd checked out which other weekend we could go to Newcastle.

The next day I called back with new travel dates, and double check we wouldn't get charged any difference in fare. Again she said (and I'm sure it was the same girl) "yes, because we moved the schedule, you can change the date or destination for nothing". It started to sink in this time.

"Hang on, you mean we can change the destination?"
"For free?"
"Yes, free"
"To anywhere?"
"Yes, anywhere"
"Anywhere, like... Singapore?"

She was started to get a little irritated at this point, like this was some standard practice I was unaware of, and I was an idiot for not getting it. I said, OK, I'll have to get back to you.

Singapore is the furthest that Tiger flies from Melbourne. I looked up prices on their website - a single return trip was over a grand with taxes! Surely there was no way they'd change an $80 ticket into a $1000 one for nothing. Still, it couldn't hurt to try.

I called back later that day, and got the same girl again. Told her the same story (schedule changed, we couldn't make the new flights), and again she asked if I'd like to change the dates or destination. Hoping that the previous call hadn't all been in my imagination, I asked "can we change them to Singapore?". Yes, that was fine, when did I want to go? How about the Easter weekend? I must have checked about a dozen times that there was no change fee, and they wouldn't charge me the difference in fare, which she adamantly confirmed each time.

She put me on hold while she amended the dates, and seemed to take a long time doing so. I could imagine her checking with a supervisor who would then tell her she was mad, and of course they wouldn't give away free international flights.

But a few minutes later she was back, confirmed the new times, and said she'd email an updated itinerary. It was about this point the phone line started to break up (how convenient) when she said something like "Now you'll see a charge on there for $1000-something...". I didn't get the rest but it sounded like she was saying "but we'll waive that". I hoped that's what she said anyway, because she had never mentioned a price before now. So I said I'd check the emailed itinerary and call her back if there was a problem.

Here's what it said on the email:

Payment via credit card
Form of payment: Visa
Payment status: CONFIRMED
Payment amount: 162.80 AUD

Payments via credit account
Payment amount: 1,341.54 AUD
Payment amount: 819.00 AUD

I'm not sure what that "credit account" is about, but at least it doesn't say Visa. It's been a few days now and nothing has appeared on my statement yet so it looks like they really weren't kidding.

It probably won't be the most comfortable flight (Tiger's seat pitch is about the shortest around) but for nearly-free tickets, who can complain. Plus we have a stopover in Darwin which is almost exactly halfway, so that should help.

I kind of feel guilty about accepting over $2100 in flights, but they had plenty of chances to notice their error and back out. But if they kept insisting it was fine, who wouldn't take it?

Will post an update after we get back - assuming we don't get stranded at an airport somewhere...

No comments: