Tuesday, April 06, 2004

How dumb is the pensioner lobby?

The airline e-ticket is not that hard to understand. No, David Skidmore, spokesman for the Combined Pensioner and Superannuants Association, it is nothing to do with being “computer literate” – you come out with an e-"ticket" when you book on the phone, as well as on the Net, of course. You can also get an e-"ticket" down at your local travel agent (of which more about shortly).

With this in mind, I have no idea what Mr Skidmore means by "A lot of people still find it convenient to get their ticket in person." Convenient? Maybe he means “take up a good chunk of one's empty day, by going along to a travel agency shopfront”? As such shopfronts are usually in high-rent (= low parking availability) locations, a pensioner keen on such a pointless outing can only add to the experience, by making sure they drive there – knowing they’ve got literally all day to find a car-park will make them feel pleasantly detached from the hundreds of other drivers doing desperate laps. But I’m sure all those other drivers, unlike the lone pensioner, aren’t there for the “convenience”. More likely, they actually need something, like food. Who would have thought?

In fairness to the pensioner lobby, and particularly in view of their apparently being co-opted (or vice versa) by the travel agents’ lobby, the new $55 fee for a paper ticket may seem a bit punitive – assuming that you know nothing about the basic economics of the airline industry. So called “paper” tickets are actually spat out of one of four global proprietary computer systems, called GDSs. The GDS oligopoly has been making money hand over fist for three decades, by taking hefty commissions for using its IT infrastructure to (i) book and (ii) print the ticket. These commissions were/are in addition to travel agents’. The e-"ticket" has little to do with saving on paper/postage, and everything to do with saving on GDS commissions, by by-passing the GDS systems (travel agents still make commissions on e-tickets, AFAIK).

Thus, the award for absolute rock-bottom dumbness in this story has to go to Australian Institute of Travel and Tourism federal council president James Pegum, who said, apropos of the $55 paper-ticket fee:

"I can't understand why they are doing it”.

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