Flight Center is the largest traditional one stop travel agent in Australia. With online travel agents including the airlines itself offers direct airfare all over the internet, who is still buying airplane ticket from traditional travel agent such as Flight Center ? Well, I do.  Not because their price is the cheapest (they are not!), but because I can get the cheapest price available (even online) and Flight Center will beat the price without so much hassle. At the end, I pay the cheapest price…. And if you are lucky, get the free ticket from them

Online Ticket Travel Agent is Enough !?

Airline ticket is never like before. These days, most airlines will not be offering item such as: changing schedule (unless you pay hefty premium on the ticket),  open ticket purchase (the one that you can choose the date later as you have not really fix it) and even more, the ticket itself is hardly a “ticket” anymore. It’s just a printout from computer of the booking number. Actually you just have to mention the booking number and that’s all you need.

So, in this case the online travel agent is actually enough (WARNING!: Stick only to the big name: webjet.com.au, expedia.com.au, zuji.com.au, etc – the dodgy on could cause you money). They still send you email if there is a change of the schedule from the airline (funny enough, we should charge the airline if they change schedule, right?), you can pay by credit card without surcharge and you can shop around easily – looking for bargain price on several different airlines on your route. Perfect!

So why buy at Flight Center ?

“Lowest Airfare Guarantee or You Fly Free” slogan

Powerful Guarantee

Flight Center got a little bit problem with “Lowest Airfare Guarantee” (without “Fly Free”) at 2005 as ACCC (Australia Competition and Consumer Commission – the Australia’s company watch dog) ban them using the slogan. Why? because such slogan is very powerful and Flight Center (as also other travel agent) are not pre purchased the airfare in bulk (with wholesale price) – they only purchase it once customer requested it, hence there is no guarantee that they will give you the cheapest price, right?  Therefore, they then change the slogan to “Price Beat Guarantee” – which require customer to obtain quote from other agent before they beat it.

Currently, it seems they have convinced ACCC to go back to the original slogan, with a modification: “Lowest Airfare Guarantee: we will beat any airfare quote or you fly free“. Clever marketing and wording. It still implied that they are the cheapest (they are not) without really actually misleading customer.

This is how it works: you get quote (online or shop) from any Australian company, bring it to Flight Center and they will just beat the price by $1 and giving you $20 travel voucher. (At least that’s what happen now – 2011). So, technically, nobody will ever got the “fly free” part as they just beat it by $1. The slogan cleverly made up so nobody will ever be able to claim it, (or NOT? – see below)

For example: Let say a ticket from Sydney to Los Angeles return with Qantas for certain date at Flight Center is $2000. Customer who just come to Flight Center ordering that ticket will be charged $2000 each. But other that shop around first and found that the ticket (the same airline and date) is $1800 on other travel agent, then he/she will be able to purchase that ticket for $1799 at Flight Center. (To see further detail go to http://www3.flightcentre.com.au/lowest-airfare-guarantee/ or download the printout (PDF format) here (just in case if the link does’t work anymore).

In other words, full service travel agent with internet’s cheapest price. Why not, right?

Buy Airplane Ticket from Flight Center

So, here is what you need to know/do to get the cheapest price from Flight Center:

  1. Understand it, the price at Flight Center by default will not be cheaper than online price (think overhead, shop leasing, salary, etc) – so without doing your homework (i.e:researching the internet first before going to their store) you will pay premium
  2. The homework is quite easy, just go to your favorite travel agent that you think will have a best price and ask for written quote – caution: you will get some difficulty get it as they read this article as well :-) Do some creative item: fax to husband works, email to daughter, etc. Or the easiest just go to zuji.com.au (so far the best price I can find – proven on several occasions already), put your date and destination and print out the quote.
  3. Go to Flight Center with the written quote. Don’t muck around and waste their time, just tell them you want to buy the ticket from your written quote.
  4. So, the consultant will start taking your detail and giving you that price, less 1 dollar. Then they will give $20 voucher for next purchase. That’s it – always work every time. (read the link above to see more detail about the terms and condition)
    A small note: by default Flight Center will charge a surcharge if you pay by credit card, but since zuji.com.au does not charge any, so the price that you have quoted is your out of pocket – Flight Center should charge exactly that amount less $1 – don’t pay the surcharge – remind your consultant if they charge you that.

Not too hard isn’t it ?

Get Lucky – Finally Fly Free!!

I was wondering before how clever is the marketing slogan as by default nobody will be possible to claim that free flight. I mean if an airfare of $2000 is quoted cheaper by say $200 somewhere else, then it is only logical to take $201 hit rather than $2000. So, in general sense, how the company ever give the free flight?

But so much for the logic, I was proven wrong! (or lucky?) So, a few months back, I did exactly what I explain above, but instead of beating the price by 1 dollar, the shop only matched the price (Say (not the actual price), the price is like “$1423.17” (quite difficult number), so instead of charging me $1422.17 they just quote exactly that $1423.17. I only realize it when I am home, and actually thinking to give it a pass.

However, the next day, as I return to the store to complete the booking (to link with other booking as I was organizing my 3 years old son traveling overseas with his grand-ma), the manager of that shop did something very arrogant and rude that really tick me off.  Have you ever experience that? You as customer, being treated as a piece of dirt? No customer service at all….

Usually the customer is just helpless and just have to sigh as victim of corporate cruelty… But not me at that time…
“Is that how you treat customer, okay, actually I want to claim your lowest price guarantee for my purchase yesterday….”
Flight Center supposed to beat the price by $1, as they just matched it, not beat it then they are at trapping themselves here. Then for some strange reason, the attitude of that manager suddenly change 180 degree.
The manager even begged “Can I just give you the $1 now?” and with a smirk of my face, I give the 2 thousands dollar smile “No…”

So, that’s how I just beat them on their own game : free flight for 2 person return to Indonesia from Sydney. Yes, I only got it because the consultant made simple mistake. I just need to claim it.

To my much surprise and credit to Flight Center, only 4 working days after I file it, they just simply refund the whole amount on my credit card without hassle.
Finally fly free from Flight Center !!! Another reason you should buy there as well :-) You might get lucky as well.

Unbeatable sometimes is a little bit overrated, yes?

Don’t be Sorry

If you feel guilty about squeezing the price on a decent company, don’t be! Flight Center, as public company traded in Australian Stock Exchanges, in 2011 has reported record profit of more than $200million. With about 2000 shopfront all over the world, that’s a profit of more than half million a day on average. As the market leader, they have massive wholesale purchasing power and any prize that is listed and beaten, they still make some profit on it.

Also, from 10 customer that walk into their door, how many do you thing have researched the air fare on other website on the exact date and airline? I guess not many – So, as example above most of the customer will pay $2000 not $1799.

Furthermore, airfare ticket is just one element of the trip, the ticket itself maybe not giving them much profit but other items such as: hotel, tour and travel insurance are something that cannot be really compare apple to apple (too many variable) with other company. That’s where they making their money. After all, these items are not covered by price beat guarantee program and most customer will be happy if all come from 1 company to minimize hassle.

But the most important thing is: the promise that they use carries very powerful marketing power and it comes with responsibilities. This is it.

Final Words

A tip: if you did notice that they are going to “just match” the price – keep your cool and wait until they give you the receipt. The transaction need to be totally done and dusted before you can claim.

Good luck if you really want to try !