African Courier - 2009 Interview
For some months now, many international airlines have started to tighten up their conditions for the sale of the popular and cheap ethnic travel tickets. The aim is to streamline the booking conditions in international tourism trade, as well as to provide more booking security. In plain words, this means that whoever flies in future at special conditions will have to adhere to a stricter exact payment regime.
In an exclusive interview, Femi Awoniyi speaks with Michael Krug, Accounts Manager, Leisure Sales, at Air France / KLM and Sandro Sacco, owner of Reiseservice Sacco, a market leader for ethnic travel in Germany about this new development.
TAC: Every year you sell hundreds of thousands of the so-called ethnic travel tickets, especially to Africa. What makes these tickets different from other tickets?
Michael Krug: Well, first of all, it should be explained that ethnic tickets are plainly issued on a special arrangement that the airlines voluntarily introduced for the sake of the large customer group of Africans working in foreign countries. For this reason, the so-called ethnic tickets offer more flexibility than normal tickets. They have a longer validity period, cost less rebooking fees and permit more free baggage allowance.
TAC: Since we are talking of ethnic travel tickets, is it enough to simply make a reservation by phone or does one have to make an advance payment?
Sandro Sacco: No, because making a reservation without paying the full amount does not guarantee the customer a seat on a plane! A seat is only guaranteed when the full price is paid. If we just make a flight reservation, it is routinely cancelled after a short grace period; we do not have any direct influence on this, since the cancellation is automatically done worldwide by the uniform booking system! Otherwise, we, the travel agency would have to make advance payments for our customers without knowing for sure whether a firm booking is really desired or not. Nobody can undertake to bear such a risk!
Michael Krug: What Mr Sacco is saying is completely right. Generally speaking, it is true to say: the cheaper the flight price, as is the case with ethnic fares, the stricter the conditions that must be fulfilled, so that the privileges offered by the special conditions can be enjoyed! After a very generous provisional regulation period in 2009, Air France/ KLM has decided that as from 1 January 2010, an ethnic travel ticket must be fully paid for at least 42 days prior to the flight.
TAC: What happens if I do not want to pay everything at once, or if I choose to wait to book just a week prior to the flight?
Sandro Sacco: There are several possibilities: First, our customers can always book for regular tickets. These are more expensive but offer the possibility to make a spontaneous extension while still at the home destination. Bookings at short notice, at times only a few days ahead of a flight, are always possible, of course. The flight price in such cases purely depends on the valid tariff charged, and must be fully paid within 48 hours, by ticket of Air France and KLM. In future, we will agree to instalment payments only when the 42-day grace period is respected. Without full payment, the Air France and KLM will also not issue a ticket – a fact that is known to all flight customers around the world.
Michael Krug: And if I may add one more thing: it is normal practice nowadays to pay outright for everything; for example, if you book for cheap tickets via the Internet. If we talk about equal treatment for all travel customers, then it can only be fair to treat ethnic tickets as special arrangements that come with strict conditions!
TAC: Which other advantages does a customer have if he or she must pay for a ticket weeks in advance of a flight?
Sandro Sacco: One major advantage is that the customer has paid a fixed price completely insulated from any fluctuations caused, for example, by developments on the international oil market. This market not only dictates the price of fuel for cars, but also that of kerosene for airplanes. Should the kerosene price goes up after paying for an ethnic travel ticket, no surcharge will be charged. This is an important advantage, if we look at past practices!