Tuesday, March 13, 2007

here today, gone tomorrow

it's been barely two months since i returned from my last trip to singapore, and i'm gearing up to return. thanks to the ability to take some leave without pay, this trip will be the longest i have ever stayed (and the longest i ever plan to stay) -- 5 weeks. within those 5 weeks i'll be hopping over to hong kong for a few days, catching up with YC, seeing some of the sights and maybe catching a movie or two at the hong kong international film festival. then island and i will also be joining up with noodlez, mellow yellow and slam man for a a week in kota kinabalu, including climbing mt kinabalu.

should be fun :)

i've barely caught up with the uploading of photos since the start of the trip... but here's a roundup in pictures of some of what i've been up to since late december.

got a few days left to get all my packing and other prep done... i feel quite disorganised and tight on time, so probably shouldn't be sitting here blogging! anyways, gonna go salivate at the prospect of eating some nice nice food, such as the likes of the fare featured on singapore food blogs like ieatishootipost. might even try to tag along as a makankaki if i get the chance :)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

not quite a LAN party, as looks might initially suggest :p

cccb now has a website! MC conducted a workshop to brief content managers on how to add content etc. hope to see it grow into a useful resource.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

the intricacies of airfares - part 2

i decided to add a hong kong leg/side trip to my upcoming overseas holiday to singapore, somewhat spuriously as a result of jetstar's sale fares from singapore to HK. after checking with YC - the only person in HK i know well enough to rope into the role of tour guide/interpreter - i changed my travel dates to be outside of the sale period, so as to coincide with YC's already planned leave from work. when i finally got around to booking the flights, i was pleasantly surprised to find that my outbound leg was again on (a different) sale. so in the end i get to fly for only a bit more than the original sale fares, and enjoy the availability of a local host. it was then that i struck another peculiarity of the world of airfares...

having learnt my lesson from the last time i almost missed a bargain, i made an immediate booking for the SG-HK leg of the journey, but decided against booking the return leg in the hopes that the price would drop. i then found out the reason for the cheaper SG-HK trip, and concluded my hope for the return leg might be in vain, so i proceeded to book the HK-SG leg. here's the thing:

if i had booked my return leg together with my outbound leg, it would have cost me SGD209 ($149 for flight, $60 for taxes). but if i book it as a single one-way trip from HK, it costs HKD906 ($628 for flight, $278 taxes).

converting to AUD that's a total of about $175 and $145 respectively. exactly the same flight, but with a variation of about $30 depending on where you book from. don't ask me why! i'm just glad i stumbled across the unexpected saving, as a result of trying to hope for a different type of saving :p

it's a bit like the travel between singapore and KL, from what i understand... the same numerical figure fare applies for flights from KL to singapore and from singapore to KL - the former you book/pay for in malaysia, using malaysian ringgits; the latter you book/pay for in singapore, using singapore dollars. at a conversion of roughly 2:1 for MYR:SGD, that's a significant difference!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

the intricacies of airfares - part 1

i don't understand how airfares are priced. i'm sure there's some economic model that determines when they go up and when they come down, accounting for factors such as the busyness of the travel dates, length of time between booking date and travel date, fixed duration promotions, competitors' price movements and the like.

i also don't understand the value of travel agents in the travel industry when it comes to booking (simple A-to-B-and-back type) flights. i've long stopped bothering to contact travel agents for domestic flights, heading straight to the likes of the virginblue and jetstar websites when i need to fly. the last time i tried to book a domestic flight at flight centre, i was quoted a much higher fare on a qantas flight than what i had already found on a vb flight. when i mentioned this, the consultant checked the vb website, and i ended up making the booking with vb. but what really happened was that the flight centre person made the booking for me on the vb website, and when i asked what the difference was between her doing that and me doing exactly the same thing at home on my own computer, she muttered something about their lowest price guarantee and arranged a $10 refund to my credit card.

the web has also become my first port of call for international flights. i used to book through one particular travel agency because the boss/owner is a family friend, and has authority to give some discounts. however the last few times i've done the brisbane-singapore round trip, i've consistently found that the lowest price i could get was direct from the airline's website (in my case singapore airline). not even the likes of zuji or union shopper's travel service could compete in sourcing cheaper prices than what my buddy firefox and i found with a few mouseclicks. so the moral of this story is: book directly with the airline if you can, as this cuts out the middle man and associated costs.

having said this, i saw that zuji's price for the qantas flights were slightly less than the price you get from qantas' websitef! go figure... so the moral of this story is: don't immediately book directly with the airline, but first see if the middle man is offering discounts/incentives.

in the end, i went with british airways, as they happened to be having a sale (half price tickets!) just when i was about to book. so i scored :) the funny thing with this is that although these BA flights are actually operated by qantas, the equivalent qantas flights (same physical plane, different code/flight number) were still at about $11K. so the moral of this story is: when a flight has multiple personalities, seats may vary significantly in price depending on which 'person' you speak to.

i first found out about the BA special via an smspup advertising email. the prices it mentioned half shocked me from my morning not-quite-wakefulness, and i was rejoicing at such a find of cheap tickets available for the dates i wanted to travel. at $760 (including tax) for the return flights, who wouldn't be happy when every other airline's starting price was something in the $11-12K range. but i had to go to work, and didn't have time to check into conditions etc and make the actual booking, so left it for after work. when i got home, the cheap seats were no longer showing! i was spewing big time at the thought of missing out on such a rare bargain, particularly as the price of the singapore airlines flights i was originally intending to book had just gone up. thankfully, the next morning i saw the special prices available once more for my desired dates - this time i couldn't get my credit card out fast enough. so the moral of this story is: when you see a bargain, carpe diem!