Having decided on the broad themes of my trip and the series of destinations I wanted to visit, I needed to make some bookings. This was a matter of some urgency as my intended departure date was rapidly approaching.
Firstly, the air fare – a return ticket to Singapore, which would be my start and end point for the journey. A quick bit of research using a couple of apps (Skyscanner and KAYAK – more on these later) indicated a range of options for routes, carriers and fares.
However a bit more research indicated that Singapore Airlines had some very good airfares available around the dates I planned to travel, despite it being the northern high season and a popular time for Australians to head north to escape the winter chill.
I’ve travelled internationally with Singapore Airlines (SQ) for many years, and find it still an attractive option when the destinations involved in my travel work.
- It is a full-service airline, which I still value for long haul travel – reasonable food and a good entertainment system help make the hours roll by.
- Changi is one of the most civilised and efficient airports in the world, a pleasure to either transit through or as one at which to begin or end one’s journey.
- It has extensive code shares with Virgin Australia (VH, which is my preferred domestic carrier), meaning that check in can be completed at Hobart and bags checked through to my final destination without needing to collect and re-check them in Melbourne (at least on the outbound leg); and SQ journeys earn Virgin Velocity points (not a major requirement, but I’m currently maintaining a sufficient balance to get access to Virgin’s lounge when I need to).
- Best of all, it allows the domestic flights to be booked in a single transaction with the international flights, providing better coverage and protection if a connection is missed.
I’d previously only booked this code share flight arrangement via a travel agent. When I tried the SQ website, it only offered me the option to book from the cities directly served by SQ aircraft, in my case the nearest being Melbourne. I tried the VH website, and that appeared to only offer the ability to book for domestic destinations (although having tried again since returning, it now offers international destinations).
The Flight Centre website, which I use pretty regularly to book domestic trips, was the one that offered both the facility to book all the way from Hobart and back as an SQ flight, and also offered some pretty reasonable fares, so that is what I used, paying with PayPal (again, more of which later).
The Flight Centre web checkout process includes the option to find your nearest Flight Centre store and even select an agent within that store to look after your booking. So within a day or so of having made my booking, I received a call from the agent at my local store, just checking if everything was OK and asking if there was anything else she could help with.
Indeed, I received several further communications from Flight Centre, including emails from another agent in their head office checking that my passport was in order and that I had travel insurance under control. A couple of days prior to departure I received a further ‘pre-departure’ email offering a bit of a checklist of such basics and again offering the assistance of a real person should I need it.
Having booked online for domestic flights for years as well as having travelled on this particular route many times before, I was pretty comfortable that all was well, but I thought it was a nice touch, offering a hand through the digital travel booking process if it was required. This may well be a service that will appeal to some non-digital native travellers.
In my next post, I’ll have a chat about accommodation booking.
What websites or other resources have you used to research and book your international airfares or other major transport for your journeys? Please leave your thoughts, responses, comments and questions below – I’d love to hear from you.
Note: Mentions of particular companies, websites and services are simply a report of my preferences and experiences with them; I don’t have any promotional arrangements with them and have received no benefits or incentives from them.