Airlines need to rethink hot deals

CHIANG RAI, 6 November 20128: Airlines are favouring Facebook as a launch pad for their latest travel deals.

It appears to make sense for campaigns designed to increase direct sales by driving traffic to airline websites.

But in their enthusiasm to take a free ride to gain a sales impact have they overlooked some of the wacky features of the Facebook merry-go-round?

Quite frequently, I noticed that many of today’s must-see posts vanish only to be replaced with ancient posts of yesteryear.

Perhaps, Facebook is assuming due to my age I prefer to spend my time in memory lane when in fact I simple need to recheck an airline deal that was present seconds earlier and just vanished into thin air.

I follow various airlines and invariably their latest hot deals pop up on my Facebook page, but if I move on thinking I can read the posts later in the morning, invariably they are lost for good in a Facebook black hole.

In some instances they will come back to haunt me most likely a few days after the deal has passed its sell-by date.

We have all experienced the frustration of following a Facebook link and then navigating a cluttered airline website only to discover the flagged Facebook fare has been removed, or the sales terms differ. In some instances the actual fare is no longer the same as quoted in the Facebook post.

It usually prompts a promise not to click-through to an airline’s websites in future, as the offers rarely materialise as stated in their Facebook promotions.

But even more annoying is Facebook’s habit of dumping fresh posts for older, outdated meaningless posts based on a half-baked algorithm that Facebook thinks reflects my preferences.

Using the ‘see first’ option 20 Facebook posts are supposed to pop up first when I open my Facebook account, but seconds later they are sent packing and other posts that Facebook thinks I need to see replace my ‘see first’ choice.

These Facebook quarks are compounded when airlines shut off the deal too early.  Airlines are notorious for offering cheap flights well down track possibly into mid 2019, but the buy window is as narrow as the eye of a needle.

THAI posted a deal on hot summer escapes to five cities in Japan for travel May to July 2019, but when it popped up on my Facebook for the first time on 4 November, it was already the last day of the promotion.

To be effective the deal should have been floated a week earlier, but even with the Facebook setting of “see first” it popped up on the day of expiry.

THAI is not alone in posting deals with a short shelf life. Vietjet and AirAsia routinely launch deals that expire within a couple of days.  But we expect more realistic sales periods from airlines like THAI, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific that are hoping to win hearts and loyal passengers.

Bangkok Airways obviously resides in a different world to the rest of us. Last month it posted Facebook Deals on two occasions that were inactive on the site or the promoted fare was considerably higher than its Facebook promotion.

Apparently, these kinds of system lapses could be a real negative for passengers who would normally book their own fares.  They dislike following a lead to discover the fare offered is “sold out” or a sales ploy has been deployed to up-sell to a higher fare.

Singapore Airlines’ special offers posted online and also on Facebook often fall into the “disappointed category” where the promised fare is just unavailable. Disappointment can lead to a decision to stop wasting time, move on to third-party fare comparison sites where invariably a lower fare is available. Airlines will ultimately be the losers.

Airlines have to get better at offering special fares that are actually bookable. They are talking about rolling out new technology features (NDC) that will help branding and direct sales, yet they fail to treat potential customers fairly by adopting practical validity periods on sales. The shock midnight sale, the million free tickets are tiresome teasers.