Monday, September 10, 2012

BLOG COMMENT- Off the rails

Selling rail tickets is a real pain....if you are a TMC. First there is the illusion that rail is cheap and second, the illusion that it is easy! I swear it would be easier to accurately predict the weather than consistantly find low prices in peak periods! Poor old TMCs have to provide this service if they wish to offer a full 'one stop shop' package of products. There is no point in saying you will provide lucrative air products and then suggest they do what they like with rail. It just does not fit and invites segmentation of all services. Meanwhile their online rail booking specialist 'partners' sit like vultures on the sidelines ready to zoom in after the kill. These operators such as Trainline and Evolvi in Europe have set up their services to support direct sell at a price. TMCs can only sell at that price plus some. Each tries to negotiate what that 'plus' will be and uses their current 'one stop' offering as a compelling bargaining chip. And the traveler? I can here him now."What,you expect me to pay these people a fee for a RAIL ticket? I can get what I need at the station". They have a point, they can get it at the station if they have the time/inclination to search for it. Rail commision used to pay for a lot of this but that too is diminishing. Oh what joy is net pricing. Then you have the American buyer with their fascination for transaction fees. In the USA most travel is by air but when they buy in Europe they seem to get amnesia over the subject. The travel type percentages are radically different here but they really do not recognise this as an issue. It is. Transaction fees work in the USA. In Europe they don't. The European market is crawling with these fees but they do not really work and TMCs find all sorts of ingenious ways to get round them. Everything from declaring rail bookings as 'free' but hiking air rates to compensate or perhaps outsourcing rail to an online self book service (at higher rates)and charge a small ticketing fee. Somebody really has to do the Maths here and either pay up centrally or give up on your TMC all inclusive service.

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