Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The joys of market segmentation

I flew a budget airline. This is nothing new for me, but this time it all went pear-shaped.

Due to the nebulous "family issues" that I mentioned earlier, I had to get to New Zealand for a few days to see my parents. I could only go from Friday to Tuesday, since I teach Wednesdays and Thursdays and couldn't get anyone to cover for me. So I booked myself on the Earlier Than You Would Think Humanly Possible Flight on Friday morning, and a Later Than You Might Ever Want To Consider Flight on the Tuesday coming back.

Because my city has no direct flights out to anywhere interesting (I am convinced this is a badly-disguised attempt to stop people leaving, for fear our population might dwindle to nothing), I was forced to catch the So Early It's Still The Night Before connecting flight to Sydney. Between the arrival of this flight in Sydney and my Budget Airline From Hell flight out again, I had a slightly narrow window of 1 hour 50 minutes. I am usually paranoid about having enough time when travelling, so this made me a bit uncomfortable, but the other options were:

  1. flying to Sydney the night before, which would require me to find accomodation that didn't mind me arriving after 11pm, and was within my budget
  2. catching the only other budget flight that day from Sydney to Christchurch, which would get me to Christchurch at 11.30 pm instead of midday and thus lose me almost a whole day of my five day trip
  3. paying $400 more for one of the few remaining tickets on Qantas, which, as even the $800 price tag of my budget flight was over the limit of what I could really afford, was not an option.
So the upshot of it all was I was a tight-arse and booked the budget flight, trying to suppress the thought that my plane from here to Sydney might be delayed and screw it all up.

Which it was.

I did still get to the check-in counter for my flight to Christchurch 58 minutes before the flight was due to depart, however. Sydney airport is not very large and the departure gate was only 5 minutes walk from check-in, through very quick and easy customs/security checks. Nevertheless the bastards nice men from Jetstar refused to let me check in because check-in closes 60 minutes before departure. Even when I *blush* begged, pleaded and cried all over their counter they couldn't/wouldn't bend the rules, but did helpfully explain to me about market segmentation and how if Jetstar didn't have horrible service, there would be no reason for people to fly Qantas any more.* So I watched my flight depart from the viewing lounge and spent the next ten hours in Sydney airport waiting for the evening flight that they charged me lots of money to be put on instead.

They were also unable to get a message to Christchurch airport for me, so that my poor mother, who wasn't at home to get my phone message about the change of flight, had no idea what had happened to me and had a bit of a crisis in the airport herself.

Finally, when I went to check in for the evening flight, despite having taken my money earlier in the day, Jetstar had no record of my booking and tried to tell me the whole thing was a figment of my imagination. Fortunately I still had my receipt and the flight wasn't full.

I would like to be able to say that I at least got lots of marking done during the ten hour wait at the airport, but in actual fact I spent most of the time being fully brought up-to-date on the exploits of the five children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren of Nancy Watkins, age 82, who comes from a sheep farm just outside Invercargill.

Mrs Watkins was travelling back from visiting a grandchild in Australia and was just delighted that she was not the only one to have missed her flight, since she gets so lonely waiting in airport lounges on her own. If her granddaughter had been there, she would never had let such a thing happen. Oh no! Her granddaughter will be contacting Jetstar and the Flight Centre and Qantas and probably the Prime Minister to let them know that such behaviour is Just Not On. Her granddaughter is very pretty and clever and has two darling little boys.

I have seen photos.

* Qantas owns Jetstar.

1 Comment:

Lucy said...

Argh! I think your city also uses flight delays to prevent people leaving even more, actually. I've been stuck there before. That is truly dreadful service. I'm sorry they made your trip more difficult.