Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Flying High

I haven't blogged for a week or so; I'd like to say it's because things of earth-shattering import have been occupying my limited temporal allotment, but the fact is, I just haven't had anything much to say - for once!

Still, all good things must come to an end, and so I post once more. Today I got a phone call (actually a series of them) from a customer who is also a member of the Exclusive Brethren. In case you don't know, they aren't allowed to use technology, so he asked me to book him some flights from Melbourne to Tassie on the internet for him.

Firstly, Regional Air Express (Rex) told him on the phone (which is also technology, but apparently allowed) they had $104 seats at 8:30 am on November 4th for Melbourne to Burnie, and 6:30 pm on November 8th for the return flight. Except they didn't. Online, I couldn't find any flights on those days at that price. He called them back, they insisted they did, he called me back, I said they didn't, and so it went on. Eventually, I told him that if they said the flights were there on their internet, then they could book them for him, because they weren't showing up on my internet! We should have been looking at the same thing; last time I checked, I wasn't mirroring the entire internet on my computer, but with all the internet-savvy and phone-home software these days, I can't be sure. Perhaps I am and just didn't realise it. That would go part-way to explaining why the terabyte of storage I bought 2 weeks ago is almost full already.

Secondly, when i found the cheapest flights that were available, they came to $396 - plus about $190 taxes and surcharges! What are these surcharges? There was the Domestic Passenger Levy, which I thought was a bit cheeky - even though the airlines are privately owned, I have to pay the government for the privilege of flying in Australian airspace as well. But the second surcharge really got me - the Fuel Excise Surcharge of about $130. Melbourne to Burnie is about 120 km, which would take about $10 of petrol in a car, but I understand that aviation fuel costs more. What it effectively means is that whenever you get on a plane in Australia, you're paying for your own fuel - not as part of your ticket, but completely separately.

So what I want to know is this: When the pilot announces we'll be arriving 10 minutes early because we've had a good wind behind us, surely that means we've used less fuel than expected? So shouldn't the airline be refunding some of our money for the fuel we paid for but didn't use? Next time I fly, at the end of the flight, I'll make a point of asking the pilot how much he owes me and when he's going to pay up.

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