WOULD you make a travel book airline ticket and talk to no-one?
It happens. It’s possible to go online, book a ticket to fly to the other side of the globe on an airline you’ve scarcely heard of, find a hotel, get formalities sorted, read a city guide and log off.It’s the way travel is going.In Europe, online travel sales increased 53pc in 2002, according to the Centre for Regional and Tourism Research. Overall sales were worth 7.3bn euros, around 3.5pcof the travel market.Air travel is the biggest part of the market, accounting for 62pc of total sales.
That partly explains why the UK is an online leader when it comes to travel sales. Some 2pc of all UK internet traffic is related to travel.
That’s in no small part due to the success of British low-cost airlines is a factor here.
EasyJet brands itself the web’s favorite airline and pioneered Net booking.
“We take 92pc of bookings online,” said spokeswoman Samantha Day. “We discovered the internet in 1998. As a low-cost carrier, we had to sell seats in a low-cost way. Until then, people booked directly. Even though we had 250 in our call center, there was still the frustration of hanging on the telephone.”
Convincing people to book online took time, though.
“It was gradual,” said Day.“Within a year we made 30pc of sales online. It is an ideal way of selling flights, especially for businesses since you can look at the options yourself. Go to a travel agent, and you rely on them looking through the options.”
The other attraction is that book airline ticket reduces cost.EasyJet fares rise by pounds 5 return if booked off- line. British Airways charges an extra pounds 10 if a ticket is booked by phone.
“Most tickets we issue now are e-tickets,” said Darren Roberts,o f BA.
“It’s to drive down costs.” In addition, short haul point- top point sales online have risen 35pc in the last year.
“Since we introduced lower fares last February we’ve seen ever faster growth. The main aim is to introduce a radical change of concept for short haul traffic.”
The airline recently announced an additional drive to save pounds 450m, saying it intended to use the internet `in a better and smarter way’ to help achieve savings. It is aiming for 100pc e-ticketing by 2005 plus a streamlined check-in process.
EasyJet claims around half its passengers are on business. Robin Tudor at Liverpool Airport agrees. “Look at early flights to Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, and Belfast on no-frills carriers and you’ll see a lot of suits checking in,”he said.
Even as the Gulf War impacts on airline business, easyJet predicts growth of 25pc this year. Irish competitor Ryanair has seen bookings rise 35pc in recent weeks compared to the same period a year ago.
Train services, too, are increasingly sold to the traveling public on-line. Thetrainline. com, formerly a subsidiary of Virgin Trains,g goes some way to breaking down the Byzantine fares structure. Inputting a request to travel Llandudno Junction to London, out on Monday,b ack the following evening, showed a far range between pounds 54.60 and pounds 257.20.Judicious clicking, and buying single tickets, reduced the fare to pounds 31 or, with first class supplements, pounds 61 return.
Notably, the cheapest first class return was Business Advance at pounds 210 and, checking with National Rail Enquiries, the walk- up fare was pounds 35. …