We need to clip the wings of the airline industry.

We need to clip the wings of the airline industry.

While the airline industry is scurrying to justify the actions of United Airlines after they forcefully evicted a passenger from one of their flights, they all seem to miss the point completely.

The point that they are missing is that passengers have had enough of airline industry arrogance. Airlines truly believe they are special. So special in fact, that they think they can do whatever they like. They routinely inconvenience passengers, overcharge, overbook, have really bad attitudes, lose your luggage, refuse refunds and a whole host of other behavioral abnormalities that would see any other business have to close its doors within a month.

They believe they are so special that they don’t need proper training or systems. And all the while they hide behind their ‘small print’ as if that justifies their malpractice. What’s worse is that the airline industry colludes in their uncompetitive and immoral behavior and get away with it. For years their practices have evaded racketeering laws. It’s time for it to stop.

Airlines are not special. No more special than any other passenger transport. Their excuses for their morally reprehensible practices are weak and transparent. It’s time for it to stop.

Overbooking is nothing more than a money making scam and don’t let anyone tell you different. If you pay and don’t show up then the airline wants to sell your seat twice or even three times. That is why they overbook, because they know that some passengers won’t show up. So they exploit the situation and the industry created these ‘rules’ that make it acceptable for them to overbook. Imagine going to a restaurant and while you are having your meal you are forcefully removed from the restaurant because it was overbooked.

This nonsense story that they had crew that had to get to another airport is a blatant lie. The airport in question was only a few hours away by car. This was bad planning and a management failure. It’s just too easy for bad managers in the airline industry to hide behind aviation regulations. United have now resorted to blaming the unions. Apparently the airline crew are so special that they aren’t allowed to be driven somewhere. What a load of bullshit.

The so-called fare rules are another example of exploitation and extortion. If the global financial industry can accurately move billions of dollars each minute, across the globe, in thousands of currencies, then the airline industry can more effectively manage their fares. But it’s not convenient and it’s costly. It’s way easier to just make the customer pay for your incompetence, and make some extra bucks in the process.

Something as silly as the mobile phone rules on flights are a great example of how the industry hides behind its ‘special’ status. Never mind the fact that there is no logic or science behind their mobile phone rules, they continue to ban the use of mobile phone. Andy Plews a spokesman for UAL’s United Airlines was quoted as saying “We don’t believe it’s a good safety issue”…”We’d like people to use the air phones. 

Their incompetence and arrogance is astounding. On a number of occasions I have been in the situation where my seat has been double booked. Now how does that happen? How is it possible that an airline cannot manage a mere 250 seats? How is it possible that a seat can be sold twice? Do these people not have a simple database to mange seat allocations? I mean, a simple Access Database can do that? It’s a little more complicated than that, because of the policy of airlines to purposefully overbook. It’s not an accident. It’s on purpose.

Let’s face it. Airlines suck. Airlines are the epitome of bad service. Airlines collude and they have their own enforcer called IATA (International Air Transport Association). This organization makes these rules so that the industry can get away with price fixing, abusing passengers and exploiting customers.

It’s time that the industry is taken to task for its behavior. Airlines are not above the law.

Booking online is not cheaper

With the proliferation of online travel services one can easily forgive people for thinking they are clever consumers by booking their holidays online. Online travel services including airlines aggressively punt their online booking services as the future of travel.

With online travel services I am of course referring to booking your holiday without the assistance of a travel agent. There are a myriad online travel services such as booking.com, Expedia and many other. Most hotels across the world offer direct booking to consumers through their websites. All the airlines offer direct booking through their websites as well.

It’s very easy to book your own holiday. All you need is a credit card and Internet connection and for all intents and purposes you are a travel agent. Or so you think. Here are some fallacies about booking direct.

Booking direct is cheaper

What you don’t know is that despite all the marketing hype trying to convince you otherwise, it is still much, much cheaper to book through a travel agent. The travel agent has, in most cases, preferential rates with the hotel or airline. Hotels have two sets of rates. “Rack Rates” are the rates you find on their website. If you book direct you pay Rack Rates. Travel agents get “STO” rates. STO stand for “Standard Tour Operator” Rates. The agent then adds commission and you will pay the same or less than booking direct.

So why would you book through a travel agent? Because the travel agent offers you all her expertise in exchange for the commission. The agent will do everything for you and make sure that you get what you pay for. Now, you may think that you can do that yourself but what you don’t know is that the travel agent knows the destination and knows exactly where to book and more importantly not to book.

You look at the Booking.com ratings and believe that if a hotel has a good rating then it’s safe to book with them. Unfortunately most of the reviews on these websites are fake. Created by a thriving industry created exclusively to manipulate and create fake reviews. You actually have no idea if your holiday is going to be a good holiday. By booking through a travel agent you pay the same but significantly reduce your risk.

Booking direct is safe.

If something goes wrong then what do you do? Believe me, things go wrong, all the time. The hotel burns to the ground. They have unscheduled renovations, the hotel doesn’t exist or they have double bookings and no availability. I have heard of clients arriving at the hotel (booked through Booking.com) and the hotel physically does not exist. Where it’s supposed to be is nothing but empty land.
Who do you turn to when things go wrong? Good luck calling the Internet! When things go wrong it’s a life saver to have a real person at home who can sort things out. Believe me, being stuck in some foreign country trying to find a place to stay on short notice is not a joke.

Booking direct with airlines is cheap and safe.

Go online and you will be sure to find great deals at the airlines. The problem is that the lay person has absolutely no idea what they are buying. Airline ticketing is hugely complicated. Each aircraft has a myriad of classes. These are essentially seat categories. There are many more categories than just economy class and business class. In addition there are categories for the different channels that tickets are sold through. Some tickets are refundable and others are non refundable. If you don’t have access to a GDS (global distribution system) that travel agents use you have no idea what you are buying. You may think you got a good deal only to find out that you can’t do a date change or even if you have an emergency you could end up losing all your money.

If you find a flight online that is cheap it’s normally for good reason. There are many, many potholes when buying tickets online and timing is one of them. If you need to catch connecting flights knowing the airports is very important. Some airports are so big that it can take you an hour just to get from one terminal to another. Many, many people that think they can do this without a travel agent learn the hard way that it’s not that simple.

Over the many years that I have been in the industry I have heard horror stories of clients losing large amounts of money. The biggest fallacy out there is that you can save money by booking direct. That is just not true. In fact it is almost always more expensive to book direct. You are just replacing one intermediary (the travel agent that actually does work) with another intermediary (that does absolutely nothing). At the end of the day you pay more by booking online and you don’t have access to the expertise of a travel professional.

Smart people book with travel agents.

Maritane Horibalis

I spent the weekend with some colleagues at Kwa Maritane in the North West Province of South Africa. It is approximately 2 hours drive from Johannesburg and 8km’s from Sun City.

“Capture the spirit of Africa at Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge, where Mother Nature and civilisation meet in perfect harmony. Located on the slopes of an ancient volcano, Kwa Maritane offers guests all the amenities of a prime resort on the doorstep of the malaria-free Pilanesberg National Park.”

The hotel is rated 4-star and that’s where my gripe starts. This hotel should be rated no more than 3-stars. I don’t know who rates these hotels or what process they follow but they clearly didn’t stay at the hotel, or not in my room at least. I stayed in the “executive” suite and I certainly wouldn’t rate it 4-star.

I really enjoyed the company and appreciate the weekend away and with this blog I am not being ungrateful but feel it is necessary to inform my loyal readers 🙂 about this establishment.

So where to start? I find it fascinating that companies spend millions building these hotels and then either do not stay in the hotel before it opens to experience it for themselves or just don’t care and screw it up on purpose. If you spend so much money on the buildings then the small details cost very little in the bigger scheme of things. It’s the small things that make the difference. Everyone knows that? It seems not.

The hotel itself is quite nice but the first problem that you encounter is the fact that you park your car hundreds of meters from the reception where you have to go first to check in. Then walk back to your car to get your luggage and walk hundreds of meters again to get to your room. The hotel is built in a 55000 hectare game reserve. Don’t they have enough space to build it in such a way that you can park at your room?

The service is poor with everyone having this attitude that they are doing you a favor. If I managed this hotel I will start by firing everyone. The only exception is Margaret at the wildlife center who was quite helpful. The rest are beyond useless.

The room has an old tv. You know one of those tube tv’s that went out of fashion 5 years ago? They have satellite tv provided by DSTV. Why oh why would they have SABC 1,2 and 3 on the telly? It’s free to air and we don’t come to this exclusive establishment to watch “sesame street”. No MTV, no VH1 and only one documentary channel. No CNN. They do however have the French News Chanel. Why? I didn’t see any French guests!

  • There is a bar fridge with nothing in it. Go figure.
  • The outside sliding door is useless and impossible to open or close.
  • The bath is minute and probable made for the Japanese. I cannot imagine an older person using it. The handles on the bath are poorly positioned and you can seriously injure yourself trying to get out of the bath.
  • The hot water is boiling and very dangerous, especially for kids.
  • The cushions are horrible and I ended up sleeping without them.
  • The rooms have Wi-fi but you have to walk all the way back to the reception to sign for it. It’s free but you have to log in. What on earth for? I would understand if you had to pay but there is no logic in this.
  • The Internet is free but so slow that I ended up using 3G instead.
  • The food was ok but not 4-star.

So in conclusion it was very disappointing and certainly did not live up to expectations. The website is one big hype with very little substance. One would expect more from a Legacy Hotel. My rating for Kwa Maritane is 2 out of 10. Don’t bother. I certainly won’t be coming back.

Predator World

Predator World is approximately 10km’s from Sun City and provides guided tours to see the “predators”. The animals are in enclosures and cages and frankly terribly disturbing. The animals are clearly unhappy in their environment and I felt terribly sorry for them. The Hyenas were particularly bad and a sorry sight to say the least. The whole place is depressing, dull, run down and a serious con. The Italian, German and American tourists flood into the place to the see the pathetic, emaciated lions, tigers and other predators on display. The Johannesburg Zoo would be a better bet.

I urge anyone that is planning on visiting this sorry excuse for a tourist attraction to give it a miss. You will save yourself 75 bucks.