Day 1: Malaysia Airlines CBR-KUL

Flying as a part of any trip is pretty easy; turn up at the airport, wander through security, be tested for explosives, sit about, get herded onto a plane, sit about, get herded off a plane and emerge from the casino like environs of the airport in a new locale.

If only it really worked out like that.

Leg 1: CBR-MEL

For me every international flight involves taking a short hop on one of the two domestic airlines (Virgin Australia or Qantas), deplaning, scurrying from a domestic terminal to international and going through the same motions again.

For the flight to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Airlines had me riding with their Oneworld Alliance partner Qantas.

As I’d been able to select the departure timing from Canberra I had very consciously made sure I selected flights to Melbourne on Qantas that utilised their jet service, these tend to fly on schedule irrespective of the Canberra weather and also make the journey a little quicker than the Dash-8 or ATR72s do.

Unfortunately over the months between me buying the ticket and the flights happening my seats were bumped to the bug-smasher.

This left me sitting in Canberra Airport for quite some time – eating up precious minutes I had to transfer to International in Melbourne.  At least I was already checked-in for the flight to KUL so they’d at least try to find me.

As it turns out I was “this close” to missing the flight to KUL!

If you’ve ever had one of those “tight” connections you’ll know the fear that floods through your body as you hear your name being butchered via the airport PA.  In my case I had made it through security of the International terminal and had just entered the twilight zone of Duty Free.  While I may have been walking briskly at that point I broke into a run to the farthest reaches of the terminal to present myself to the staff at the Gate.  10 minutes to boarding, and if I had’t run, I probably wouldn’t have made it!

Leg 2: MEL-KUL

With the crazy rush over and my heart slowing to a more sedate pace I quickly snapped a picture of the Boeing 777-200 that was to be my ride to Kuala Lumpur.  Grabbed a bottle of water and waited 10 minutes to board.

My seat, 12A, was comfortable enough without being generous in the allotment of space.  Without a doubt it’s an economy class seat but it doesn’t feel like being crushed into cattle class like some can.

Once flying the weather was largely clear with only a few minutes of bumps and thumps of turbulence.

The inflight service was efficient and friendly – a generous meal was served along with enough beverages to meet my needs.  Some may feel that the beverage service is not generous enough but I did see other passengers requesting and receiving additional drinks over the flights duration.

On the Ground

The end of every journey is the wait for baggage, the queues for Customs/Immigration and finally emerging into the destination.  Here I tend to find Kuala Lumpur International Airport to be pretty good.  There’s plenty of space so you don’t feel crowded in, and even the longer walks through the terminal are appreciated after the flight.

As one of the worlds best airports it does a good job of being efficient and welcoming, without many of the annoyances that can be found elsewhere.


Bargain Travel: The “Hopper” App

“Hopper” – A Quick Review

Over the past few days a few of the news aggregator apps I use have been bombarding me with short blogs about how awesome “Hopper” is. I thought I’d download it and have a look at how well it performs against my own “database” of flight price trends to destinations I’m interested in.

What is “Hopper”?

If you haven’t read about it here’s a potted summary.
“Hopper” uses a background database of flight prices to offer you a four-colour scale of flight prices to your choice of destination. It will help you identify “cheap” days to fly and give you a comparison of other days where flights may be lower. It ultimately will let you select flights and then divert you to a booking site so you can buy those tickets. It’s a free app, and that’s how Hopper makes money, referral to flight bookings, so while Hopper may be neutral they’ll only be showing flights being sold by their Affiliate program.

Does it work?

I’m not convinced that the database they have is incredibly well populated outside of the major US routes. For Asian trips it was able to find and link-up flights OK but the “intelligence” on best days to buy and long-term seasonal trends they promote just wasn’t there. I think once more people start using the App it will drive up the quality of the statistical information. In short it works, but it doesn’t work better than having a few basic searches and notifications set up in “Skyscanner” or or any other App/Website as you still need to have an idea on where and when you want to travel. What “Hopper” told me in 5 minutes I could match on Skyscanners website in 5 minutes.

What does this mean for a Bargain Traveller?

The App could help you quickly narrow into a bargain ticket for a “new” destination that you’re not familiar with researching. It also could easily exclude the “best” combination of flights and deals by having a preference for point to point flights booked on a single ticket, not multi-ticket, multi-hop options that to me really match the name “Hopper”. At the end of the day the App is a vehicle to bind into the Travelocity/Expedia and probably other Flight Sales Affiliate programs so your pricing and route options will be based on those players and how they’re willing to book tickets.
The App is also USD based and as such EVERY booking defaults to USD. This makes comparison easy, but you have to remember currency conversion takes place at every level. Once you leave the App to book a flight the providers website or App can change the currency to match your local currency, and in at least one of the samples it also hiked up the offered ticket price considerably more than the USD:AUD conversion.

In Summary?

If you need to take trips at very short notice and don’t get enough time to adequately research flight pricing cycles then this App _may_ help you find cheaper days to fly. It’s still biased by the need the need of the App developers to generate flow-through sales through their Affiliate providers and may not give 100% coverage of route/flight options.
It’s no substitute for doing your own detailed research over a few weeks using other resources and breaking down your route options to explore multi-ticket or multi-hop scenarios.
In almost every case I was able to utilise other search tools to get a better deal for the flights suggested (once currency conversion took place). This is because the Affiliate program the “Hopper” guys use is not consistently the “cheapest” of the many hundreds of options. (I used the DoHop aggregator as my base reference for this test – noting that it’s not always the cheapest either).

As I’ve said there’s no substitute for research of your own, and “Hopper” can form part of it.