Thursday, 25 April 2013

And then there were two...

On Tuesday 23 April 2013, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission ("ACCC") announced that it would not block Virgin Australia's proposed takeover of Tiger Airways Australia. While it acknowledged that there were anti-competitive concerns about the takeover, it also noted that Tiger Airways (currently mainly owned by Singapore Airlines) had said that it would leave the Australian market and be most likely to redeploy its 11 aircraft used in its Australian operations into its Asian operations.

So effectively, the ACCC was left with a situation of damned if you do and damned if you don't. That is, by allowing the merger, Australia would effectively have 2 airline groups: Qantas and Jetstar on the one hand and Virgin Australia and Tiger Airways on the other. However, if it didn't allow it then we would still be left with 2 airline groups being Qantas and Jetstar on the one hand and Virgin Australia on the other.

I've read many articles in recent months about the end of low cost airfares (mainly in the context of fares to overseas destinations, particularly to Europe, which is something of a coming of age trip for many young 20 something Australians) with which I disagree - I've seen fares as low as $798 from Melbourne to Brussels return with 5 star, full-service, airline, Qatar Airways and $1077 from Sydney to Amsterdam return with full-service, but not 5 star, China Southern Airlines.

Oops, off I go on a tangent again!

There is a serious risk that we will no longer see the cheap airfares that we have been accustomed to seeing with Tiger Airways Australia under Virgin Australia (think $41 return Adelaide to Melbourne that I saw recently). While Virgin Australia has itself moved away from being a low-cost airline to one aiming to get a share of the business customers, one hopes that Tiger Airways Australia will remain a low-cost carrier so that Australia has another low-cost airline to keep Jetstar competitive.

A lot of people have lost faith in Tiger Airways Australia, particularly with its unfortunate temporary grounding a few years back. Perhaps, having the backing of Virgin Australia will help Tiger Airways Australia get itself back in favour with the general public and may actually help get more bums on seats.

Ultimately, time will tell.

Does anyone have any stories to tell about previous airline mergers?

From buget travel to the most expensive and luxurious holiday package...

As you'd be aware from reading this blog, in the main, I let you know how to get great deals on flights and on hotels.

With this post, I am going from one extreme to the other. A company called VeryFirstTo is selling a once in a lifetime holiday which has been put together by UK luxury travel company Huntington Travel. It is a holiday which will take you to all 962 UNESCO World Heritage Committee sites (or at least those to which it is safe to travel).

What is the cost of this journey I hear you ask? Just a bit of pocket money really. 900,000 British pounds will buy you this experience!

Apart from seeing as many of the 962 sites, what else do you get? You will travel at a minimum of business class (I thought it would have been first class all the way for this sort of trip!). Accommodation is only the best hotels, such as Sandy Lane (Barbados); Hotel George V (Paris); The Plaza (New York); The Taj Mahal Palace (Mumbai); Cipriani Hotel (Venice); and The Ritz-Carlton Hotel (Moscow).

Obviously, it's also not a trip that you can do quickly either. Apart from needing 900,00 pounds for the experience, you will also need to have two years free to do it. Even at a leisurely 2 year duration, you're still managing an average of  1.3 World Heritage sites per day. So not only do you need to have the 900,000 pounds to spare, you also need to have enough money to support you for the 2 years that you are travelling.

It's not all about selfish indulgence either, a kind donation of 5,000 pounds will be made to UNESCO during the trip.

Apparently, there are two people who are currently finalising their itineraries, a very rich Chinese PHD student who will take the trip once he has finished his PHD (I've not done a PHD but I don't think I did anything but have a few drinks at the local bar when I finished my Masters) and an Italian businessman.

This truly is a once in a lifetime trip. Ah, we can dream, can't we?

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Advanced Priceline Name Your Own Price

Following on from my beginner's tute on how to use the Priceline NYOP function, I thought that I would share with you a slightly more advanced use.
Basically, as you may recall, when bidding on hotels in Priceline's NYOP, you are bidding on unidentified hotels. You narrow your search by the following parameters:
city area;
star rating; and
price per night.

If you make a bid which is rejected by Priceline and you wish to bid again, you have 2 options:
1) wait 24 hours and you can repeat the exact same bid - i.e. dates, area, stars, price; OR
2) change something about your bid (dates, area or stars, not just the price) in order to bid again within 24 hours.
That's where this tutorial comes in. Recently, my sister was overseas and wanted to add on a night for a stay in Milan at the last minute. We had originally secured the Westin Palace, Milan by using the secret hotels function on Hotwire but I thought I would try Priceline to see if we could get the extra night any cheaper.
I knew from experience that on Priceline, the Westin Milan falls within its 5* hotels category and that it falls into the Northeast Milan zone.
That said, I went straight in and decided a low-ball bid of US$80 per night which once taxes and fees were added would be about US$100 per night.
In order to make this bid, I selected Northeast Milan, 5* and $80. It was rejected straight away as I thought it might be.

In order to determine which zones are rebid zones, I wanted to work out which ones did not have a 5* property in them so that I could then use them with the Northeast Milan zone to bid for a 5* hotel in the Northeast Milan zone. As you will see, in the image below, for the 8 zones that I have ticked there are no 5* properties available to bid on using the NYOP function.

Accordingly, if I am looking for a 5* hotel in the only zone that does have one, I can use these zones as free rebid zones to allow me to not change my star rating or dates yet still be able to bid within the 24 hour period. This meant that I was able to make 9 bids within 24 hours without changing the date or the star rating and still be guaranteed a hotel within the area I wanted (Northeast) because there are no 5* hotels in any other area in Milan available through this function. This was perfect with such a last minute booking.
I then closed out of Priceline and went back in again. This time I clicked on Assago and noted that the 5* field was greyed out. That means that Priceline does not have any 5* inventory availlable in that zone. I then also ticked Northeast as that is where I want to be. I upped my bid by $5 so it was an $85 bid before taxes and fees.
This meant that as far as Priceline was concerned I had changed something (area) about my bid so that I was entitled to rebid within the 24 hour period since my last bid.

I placed a bid for $85. Instead of a flat rejection, I was given a suggestion to bid again. I got this counter-offer to increase bid by $34 to $119 to get accepted.

I decided not to do that but to proceed with using my rebid zones to see whether I could manage to get a hotel at less than the $119 + taxes and fees counter-bid price. To do this, I again closed out of Priceline and went back in and this time I clicked on Linate airport and Northeast Milan, selected 5* and bid $87.
Again, I was rejected and given the same counter-offer of $119.
 Went out and back in and this time selected Milan Malpensa and Northeast and again 5* and this time bid $90.
Again rejected and again suggested that I increase to $119 for acceptance.
Added Milano Due and bid $95
Rejected again! They really want me to pay the $119 which is exactly what the express deal price is... I don’t think so!
Added Northwest Milan and went up to $97 per night
Again rejected and again suggested that I pay $119!
This time added Sesto and bid up to $100.
Still no luck! They really don’t want to budge!
So I added my last second to last rebid zone of SOuthwest Milan and went for $102 per night
Again no! Tight arses! I’ve come up $22 and they haven’t budged with their suggested price of $119 for acceptance!
Lucky last rebid zone (well not really, but I'll explain more about that below): DUOMO + NORTHEAST MILAN – $105. Not holding my breath but still kind of holding my breath!
 Finally got accepted – so glad I didn’t go all the way up to the $119 they suggested!
Offer Price:
avg. per room, per night
Room Subtotal:
Taxes & Fees:
Total Charged to Card:
Otherwise, I would have either had to just bid the $119 that Priceline counter-offered with if I wanted to continue to bid that day without changing my date or stars or change my date or star rating. As I wanted the hotel for tomorrow night, changing the date was not an option.
My sister also really wanted to stay in a 5* property so for me changing the star rating was also not an option.
In the end, after a little persistence it all paid off! I managed to get the Westin Palace for less than the counter-bid price and for about half of the retail price!
PS. I mentioned above that the last rebid zone was not technically my last rebid zone. That is because had that bid failed I could have ticked two rebid zones plus the Northeast Milan zone when making the next bid. For example, I could have ticked Assago Forum + Historic Centre (Duomo) + Northeast Milan and 5*. That would have tricked Priceline into letting me bid again within the 24 hour period because even though I had placed bids for Assago Forum + Northeast Milan and for Historic Centre (Duomo) + Northeast Milan, I had not placed a bid for all 3 at once.
If you have any questions about rebid zones, please feel free to ask them in the comments field below and I will reply as soon as I can.