Thursday, June 26, 2008

air Baltic: bad e-commerce Latvian style

This is how I understand e-commerce: I am my own salesperson, cashier and give away some important personal details to boot, and I generally get stuff or services I need cheaper. The e-retailer gets free sales labor (me), a free cashier (me, doing the payments online) and a free market survey interviewer (me, my address, what I bought all in the data base).
air Baltic, Latvia's national carrier, is breaking with this model and charging an outrageous LVL 6 (around USD 13.30) per person in any single transaction for buying e-tickets on the internet. That is, if there are three people flying to Paris on a single ticket purchase (say, mom, dad and the kid, and mom pays with her credit card) that single transaction is charged an additional LVL 18. The credit card payment is entirely electronic, at infinitesimal cost, so there is absolutely no cost justification for this fee. air Baltic charges a practically infinite markup on any single online transaction for which it incurs no cost whatsoever and has already been saved the expense of a ticket agent, printing tickets, etc.
This has been going on for some while, but in the summer doldrums (and after looking at some options for flying to the US via Stockholm), I think it is necessary to mention how this airline simply fucks with its customers on the internet. No other words for it. At least they could have called it a fuel surcharge.
Look for pay toilets on air Baltic next, seriously....
I am not singling out air Baltic. Ryanair is the master of endless pesterware that keeps asking whether I want to buy travel insurance, as if saying a) their aircraft are unsafe (not true) or b) the intra-European treaties on health services don't work or c) their destinations are either crime ridden, pestilent, or both, so get insured!
In the US, an American Airlines flight attendant threw a nervous and autistic toddler off a plane. No need to protect airlines from terrorists when they already have them on staff...
Which brings me back to air Baltic which also hassled my wife and child when she showed her Swedish passport (not her Latvian one that has the kid in it) and the kid his Latvian one. They demanded all kinds of documentation that the fuckwit Latvian authorities require (Schengen, what Schengen??), so fortunately my son had his American passport and then they let him fly. Don't tread on me. Hoo-yah!


Bleveland said...

I fully agree with you. Ryanair is indeed still worse when it comes to service and pesterware, but it seems to be a matter of time. AirBaltic definitely sees a challenge in beating Ryanair in this area (in price they probably never will).

Last week I spent an entire evening in an attempt to book a cheap airfare with Ryanair (Stockholm - Riga).
The tickets were free, but with taxes they ended up with roughly 30 LVL. Not bad for the whole family (2 kids, 2 adults). Then it started: check in a lousy max 15 kg (!) bag for each passenger and thus check in at the airport? 20 LVL each please! Do you want priority boarding? Another 7 LVL each please! Priority boarding used to be free of charge for children families, but Ryanair found a new gold mine so now "anybody" can get this service. For a small fee of course. Anyway not recommended to try to get onboard an aircraft with two small children when people are running/kicking/fighting to get their seat. Eventually the bill ended with 140 LVL and then it came: the credit card transaction fee! 3 LVL per passenger and destination, another 24 LVL. What started with 30 LVL ended up with more than 160 LVL! BUT anyway cheaper than the lowest fare available from AirBaltic (roughly half price) so I decided to push the "confirm" button. After a few seconds a nice message came telling me that an error had occurred. "Please try again and if it continues to fail get in touch with the airline". I tried again. And again. And again. 5 times and I lost my data every time and had to start over again. Eventually I went for the “get in touch with your airline” thing. Sorry? Ryanair? Help desk? For more than 1 LVL per minute and then waiting half an hour to talk to some asshole that is not going to solve your problem? No thanks. The next day the same thing happened (major crash in Ryanairs system obviously) and when it finally worked again the cheap tickets were gone (did they ever really exist?). So we skipped the trip and will go at another occasion and preferable with another company.
Yes, I do understand that the other airlines also do charge for these kind of things, but they simply do not show them on the bill. But does it matter if I and many people with me feel ripped off after booking a ticket with Ryanair even though this was by far the cheapest ticket available? Since when has it become the goal of budget airlines to piss people off?

Anyway, AirBaltic is rapidly becoming a similar company and the chicks at the check-in desks at Riga Airport are really horrible. As is the fact that they every f*cking morning create a 45 minutes economy class cue just to remind you about the fact that you wanted cheap - you GOT cheap!

From an EU standpoint Airbaltic has no rights whatsoever to deny your child from traveling together with another adult EU citizen. I believe that this is an old Latvian rule that comes from the time that children were stolen / kidnapped from Latvia for reason you do not want to think about. But it is perfectly OK to smuggle an American child from Latvia :-)
God bless America? or Latvia?

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