Saturday, July 12, 2008

Paying dearly for a cheap flight

Travelling from Dubai to Salalah for only Dh10 may sound like an irresistible budget-airline offer — especially when you want to escape the blistering heat of the UAE and fly to the cooler monsoon climate of Salalah.

But don’t just jump into booking a seat online. These attractive offers come with their own baggage. Budget airlines have come as a boon to travellers looking for cheap tickets on no-frills airlines that can also be booked in advance, but the attraction is so magnetic that they tend to ignore the fine print set down in airlines’ terms and conditions.

The low-price advantage comes with many hidden disadvantages that need to be taken care of to reap the real benefits of flying a budget airline. Let’s take a look at the ten most common pitfalls of flying budget airlines.

1. Fare higher than the price advertised: First, the advertised price is never the price you ultimately end up paying. A Dh10, one-way ticket could have an additional cost of Dh300 as tax.
Tax, too, varies from flight to flight, so be prepared to shell out the extra bucks.

2. Extra charges: When using a credit card, remember that in addition to air fare and taxes, there could be charges of about Dh100 for online booking. It sounds ridiculous but some budget airlines actually charge for it.

3. Fixed date of travel: When you book seats in advance, make sure you fly on the confirmed date. If you ever have to change the date of the journey, you will end up paying the difference between the later and previous air fares. Besides, you will have to pay the change-of-date charges — a minimum of Dh50. So don’t purchase a budget-airline ticket if you are not sure of your date of travel.

4. Non-refundable: Tickets for budget airlines are almost always non-refundable but some budget airlines have the option of providing a credit note of the same fare that remains valid for a year. This means you have to wrap up a trip within the specified time (a year) to avoid wasting the money you have already spent. Do not forget that in this case too, you will need to pay the extra amount for the later higher air fare.

5. No credit note: In case your trip is cancelled because of some unforeseen circumstance — for example, loss of passport — some budget airlines will not provide you a credit note for an equal amount of air fare. So you have to forget about getting the money back — unless you book another flight and pay the extra amount needed for it. So, do check whether there is a credit-note option before purchasing any ticket.

6. Credit card holder: Remember that if the ticket is purchased through someone else’s credit card, that credit-card holder has to travel with you. If not, you will have to purchase another ticket at whichever fare it is available at the time of flight. So stick to your credit card to avoid these hassles at the eleventh hour.

7. Baggage limit: A budget airline usually has a lower cabin-baggage limit — an average of 7kg, in addition to the 20kg of checked-in luggage. There are also certain restrictions on the dimensions of the baggage, but that varies from airline to airline. So, avoid multiple handbags — you may have relinquish some of them.

8. In-flight charges: Remember to have a meal before you board a budget airline. If not, be prepared to pay for all that you consume on the flight. There are no free meals on budget airlines. In addition, any kind of in-flight entertainment comes at a fee, so carry local currency with you. Especially if you aren’t the kind who can’t do nothing while flying.

9. Connecting flights: If the budget airline you are flying has a tie-up with another airline which will connect you to your destination, avoid it as far as possible — it can be a nightmare because most of the time, there is hardly any communication between these two airlines. For example, if the budget airline you’re travelling by gets delayed at take-off at the local airport, the connecting airline will not wait for you. This can be a huge problem if the transit time is short. In addition to that, chances of your luggage getting misplaced or damaged are pretty high during connecting flights.

10. Local office: If the budget airline you’re travelling is not locally based or does not have a local office, getting in touch with the management can be a not-so-pleasant task.—

Abdulla Mahmood is a UAE-based freelance writer

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No Sign of Economic Crisis In Mid-Valley Mega Mall

Massive renovations to Ezam's already massive house in Shah Alam,
started since he joined Umno: From Malaysia-Today.

I was at Mid-Valley Mega Mall to visit the Property Show For Bumiputera at its exhibition centre. I spent few hours browsing those properties on offer even though it is a dream to have a massive house like the above photo.
I am neither a businessman nor a politician (who is jobless as well) who can afford a massive house worth millions. Most Malaysians work very very hard to earn their RM while umnoputeras keep stealing and robbing their wealth under bumiputera allocations.
However, the big crowd at the Mid-Valley defied certain people's prediction on the pending economic crisis after the recent petrol hike. Most restaurants, hypermarkets, outlets, foodcourt were full and there were long queues to purchase movie tickets at Cineplex floor.
Of course, Arab tourists were also flocking the mall and they seemed enjoying their vacation here even the exchange rate (Dirham or Riyal to RM) is not to their favour.
From my brief window shopping, it is still cheaper to shop in Dubai any time except for the fast food. Surprisingly, my nasi padang at the food court costed about the same in a Dubai restaurant.
It was traffic jam around Mid-Valley and after an hour waiting for the bus that never came, I decided to take a cab home. And the fare was also not as cheap as before.
Mid-Valley Mega Mall may not be the real indication on the current situation but it does give me an impression on our feel-good factor in an urban area.