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旅行社渐失卖票优势

Airline customers have better choices

强大的网络搜索引擎为预订机票的消费者提供了更多选择。可以货比三家的折扣网站有可能为你提供所有的航线选择,令你购得最便宜的机票,而航空公司网站也可以为你提供便捷的网上订票渠道。虽然传统旅行社似乎能通过电话帮你解决问题,但是随着大量消费者购票时有了其他选择,旅行社客户大有日渐减少之趋势。

Consumers have more choices when booking airline tickets as the power of online search engines continue to grow.  Online discount sites may offer you the cheapest travel itinerary by exploring all alternative flights, whereas airline websites can provide an easy way to book tickets online. While traditional travel agencies seem to be able to address your concerns via a phone call, they increasingly lose momentum as customers seek alternative services in droves.

此外,我发现尤其是对于遭遇燃眉之急,例如因为健康状况或恶劣天气而需要改变行程的乘客来说,航空公司可以提供更好的改票服务。

Particularly, I found that airlines can provide better services to customers who face a burning issue, such as a change in flight itinerary due to health conditions or bad weather.

几月前,我曾报道过一名读者在遭遇丧父之痛后,竟然还被旅行社截吞加航为其提供的前往北京的奔丧机票折扣的经历。但实际上我也有过此类遭遇,只不过我的经历可能远不如那位读者来得惨痛。

I reported a few months ago of a reader’s experience where a travel agency pocketed the bereavement discount offered by Air Canada for his tickets to Beijing after his father died. But the story below is about the experience of my own, though it may be much less dramatic than that of the reader.

我在为我母亲购买最近前往北京的海南航空往返机票时,没有直接联系航空公司,而是图方便打电话找了一家旅行社。最终,旅行社给我的报价是$1100元,比加航$1800的票价便宜很多,当时我很兴奋,认为自己买到了最便宜的机票。

I bought a round trip ticket of Hainan Airline for my mother’s recent trip to Beijing. Instead of contacting the airline directly, I sought a convenient route by calling a travel agency. When I was quoted with a price of $1100, much cheaper than $1800 of Air Canada’s ticketed price, I was thrilled – I thought I got the best deal for my trans-Atlantic flight.

但是在我对机票代理员千恩万谢过后没多久,我的兴奋就烟消云散。因为在我送母亲去机场时,我从一名排队办理登机牌的乘客处获知,他从航空公司直接预订的机票只有$900元。

But not long after I thanked the agent profusely, my excitement completely disappeared. When I dropped off my mom at the airport, I learned from a passenger in a check-in lineup that he bought the ticket for only $900 -- through direct booking with the airline.

但是直到我母亲需要改变行程时,我才真正体会到航空公司可以为乘客提供更好的服务。

But it was only through the change of my mom’s itinerary request that I realized what a better deal an airline can offer.

我的母亲原定9月返回多伦多,但是由于她在北京出现严重腰疼而接受了手术,因此需要提前返回。母亲欲逃离酷热并和生活不适的北京之急迫心情令我焦虑不已。

My mother had gone through a surgery while in Beijing due to severe back pain and she needed to fly back to Toronto earlier than the original plan of September. I almost suffered an anxiety attack as she was making a dire plea to escape the hot and uncomfortable living conditions in Beijing.

她说:“我等不到9月份了……你能不能帮我安排8月份返回?”

 “I can’t wait till September… Can you arrange for August?”

我突然想起我购买的机票是允许更改返程日期的。谢天谢地!我立即联系了帮我购票的代理员,但与她的通话却几乎令让我又一次被宰。

I remembered that the ticket I bought allowed me to change the return date – thank goodness! I quickly contacted the agent who helped me purchase the ticket and found myself engage in a conversation that almost trapped me into another bad deal.

机票代理说:“你可以更改你的返程日期,但你必须支付你的票价和市场价之间的差价,另外还要加上$100元手续费。由于8月是大部分学生返回多伦多的旅游旺季,因此票价要比9月贵很多。”

“While you are allowed to change your return date, you must pay for the differences between the market price and the fare you paid, plus $100 processing fee,” she said. “Given August being the high travel season as most students return to Toronto, the price is much more expensive than September.”

我紧张不安地问道:“好吧……但是差价有多高?”

“Okay… But how high would that be?” I asked, nervously.

在一阵噼里啪啦的键盘声后,她给了我一个报价几乎让我背过气:我必需再额外支付近$1000元,才能确保有8月份的机票。

After quite a few seconds of rapid keystrokes, she gave me the exact answer that was entirely out of my expectation – I had to pay almost an additional $1000 dollars to secure a ticket in August.

“你要不要?为了确保有票你必须尽快答复我……因为座位非常有限,我不能等太久。”

“Do you want it? You have to give me an answer very soon to secure the ticket… I can’t wait for too long as the seats are VERY limited.”

当时要不是因更改行政需要争得母亲同意,我差一点就点了头。

I almost gave her a green light to proceed with the purchase, if I didn’t need to consult with my mother about the changed flight.

但是$1000元比我在机场碰到的那名乘客的往返机票价格还要高。在我等待着和母亲童话时,我改变了主意,决定直接向航空公司寻求帮助。

But $1000 was even more than what that the passenger I met at the check-in paid for his round trip. While waiting to contact my mother to discuss the changed schedule, I changed my mind and decided to seek help from the airline directly.

在我说明母亲的高龄和医疗状况后,海南航空表示愿意提供帮助。在一阵搜索之后,航空公司给出了的报价比旅行社代理员的报价低了整整$700元。

After specifying mom’s medical conditions and her senior age, Hainan Airline expressed their willingness to help out. A few keystrokes later, the airline presented a much better offer –which was $700 lower than the price quoted by the agent.

 

但我并不确定这是航空公司只直接向客户提供的票价,还是机票代理趁火打劫,想要利用我的绝望处境获利。据《多伦多星报》报道,为了应对市场竞争,航空公司常常会自己保留部分便宜机票,或是向直接预订机票的消费者提供限时底价票。

I am not sure whether the airline offered this deal directly to its customers only or if the agent wanted to profit from my desperate situation. According to an article in the Star, in responding to market competition, airlines often run flash sales to customers who book direct.

《星报》的文章还援引了追踪航班抵港和离港信息的FlightView网站最近进行的一项调查结果。该调查发现大部分乘客偏好通过航空公司网站订票。

The Star article also cites a recent survey by the website FlightView, which tracks the arrival and departure status of flights. It found that most travelers prefer airline websites.

此次调查在今年4月进行,共访问了2,066名使用FlightView手机软件的人士,结果发现有59%的人经常通过航空公司网站直接订票,有近30%的人是通过在线旅行社预订机票,有8%的人是通过传统旅行社订票,还有3%的人表示自己不预订机票。

The survey of 2,066 people who used FlightView’s mobile app in April found that 59 per cent usually buy their tickets from airlines, while nearly 30 per cent buy from online travel agents. Only 8 per cent buy from traditional travel agents, and 3 per cent say they don’t book their own travel.

我自身以及那位读者的经历告诉我这些统计数据的确合乎情理。如果旅行社不能向消费者提供最佳报价,将会有越来越多的乘客将放弃通过旅行社购票,去寻求更好的替代选择。

The experience of my own and the reader tell me that the stats really make sense. If travel agencies are unable to provide the best deal to customers, a growing stream of passengers are going to steer away from travel agencies and seek alternatives in their travel arrangements.

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