Saturday, June 29, 2013

Add-ons and Group tours

In the initial days of "No-frills Airlines" or "Budget flights", a passenger holding such a ticket entered the cabin and was greeted by the cabin attendant.  The passenger had been made to walk a long distance from the boarding station to the aircraft.  The airline had dispensed with the use of aero-bridge or buses for transporting the passengers from the boarding station to cut costs.  The exchange between the attendant and the passenger went on like this:

Attendant: Welcome aboard, Sir. May I see your boarding pass?
Passenger: Sure.
Attendant: You're in seat 21 C. That will be $5, please!
Passenger: What for?
Attendant: For telling you where to sit.
Passenger: But I already knew where to sit.
Attendant: Nevertheless, we are now charging a seat-locator fee of $5. It's the airline's new policy.
Passenger: That's the craziest thing I ever heard. I won't pay it.
Attendant: Sir, do you want a seat on this flight, or not?
Passenger: Yes, yes. All right, I'll pay. But the airline is going to hear about this.
Attendant: Thank you. My goodness, your carry-on bag looks heavy.  Would you like me to stow it in the   overhead compartment for you?
Passenger: That would be great, thanks.
Attendant: No problem. Up we go, and done!  That will be $10, please.
Passenger: What?
Attendant: The airline now charges a $10 carry-on assistance fee.
Passenger: This is extortion. I won't stand for it.
Attendant: Actually, you're right - you can't stand. You need to sit and fasten your seat belt. We're about to push back from the gate. But first I need that $10.
Passenger: No way.
Attendant: Sir, if you don 't comply, I will be forced to call the air marshal. And you really don't want me to do that.
Passenger: Why not? Is he going to shoot me?
Attendant: No, but there's a $50 air-marshal hailing fee.
Passenger: Oh, all right, here - take the $10. I can't believe this.
Attendant: Thank you for your cooperation, sir. Is there anything else I can do for you?
Passenger: Yes. It's stuffy in here, and my overhead fan doesn't seem to work. Can you fix it?
Attendant: Your overhead fan is not broken, sir. Just insert two quarters into the overhead coin slot for the first five minutes.
Passenger: The airline is charging me for cabin air?
Attendant: Of course not, sir. Stagnant cabin air is provided free of charge. It's the circulating air that costs 50 cents.
Passenger: I don't have any quarters. Can you make change for a dollar?
Attendant: Certainly, sir! Here you go!
Passenger: But you've given me only three quarters for my dollar.
Attendant: Yes, there's a change-making fee of 25 cents.
Passenger: All I am now left is a lousy quarter? Whatever will I do with it?
Attendant: Hang on to it. You'll need it later for using the toilet.


The above exchange between the passenger and the cabin attendant may appear far fetched.  But those who frequently travel do not find this amusing.  Every additional service (?) is charged extra.  Finally, the consumer would be left wondering as to whether the old system of charging fare was much better!

Arranged tours are no different.  Touring or taking a vacation has now caught the imagination of the present generation.  Those from the older generation linked to the younger generation are no exception.  A vacation or "Leisure Travel" as it is called in the travel agent's language, is planned in advance and is a part of the family budgetary exercise.  As the name itself suggests, it is well and truly a budgetary exercise and involves all the ingredients of a balancing act.  Period of the vacation should be the maximum and yet cost should be minimum.  As many places or attractions are to be covered within the shortest time.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner should be included in the package and the choice of items (Vegetarian/Jain/Non-vegetarian/European/American) should also be as desired.  Travel Agencies keep all these in mind and prepare the packages.  Later on sell them using all marketing skills.  When the booking is finally done, both the agency and traveler are happy.

A recent tour of  Singapore and Malaysia brought these things into sharp focus.  There were some funny aspects too.  Some of them are here:
  • The Agency and its employees are mainly interested in  finalizing the bookings without delay.  It is their business.  Standard and well known companies never lie and answer all the questions truthfully.  The only problem is that unasked questions are not answered.  These unasked questions create many problems as the tour progresses.
  • We advise young bankers about dealing with auditors: Do not withhold any information from the auditor.  Do not volunteer any information either.  An auditor is a trained and knowledgeable person.  He is expected to ask the right questions and get his answers.  If he does not ask them, well, we are not at fault.  Travel Agencies and their employees have perfected this art.
  • They give full details of the attractions/places covered by them as part of the package, in their pamphlets and websites.  As regards others, it is only said "Explore at your convenience".  You are taken to the gate of the building or theme park or attraction.  Their duty ends there.  To enter the building or park or attraction, you have to pay an entrance fee.  It is not included in the package.  It is optional!
  • If you have the money and are willing to pay, the day or evening is well spent.  Otherwise you need not worry; you can sit at the gate and patiently wait for those who have gone inside to come out to resume the tour.
  • You do not have the luxury of sitting in the air conditioned coach to await the arrival of fellow passengers who have gone inside.  The coach drops you at the gate and is gone for bringing the next batch of tourists.  Either pay up and go inside the attraction or stay out and sweat it out.
  • While waiting like this you may need food or water.  It can be bought at the nearby outlet.  At your cost as it is not included in the package.  Not included in the package because you are expected to be inside the building or park or attraction.
  • If there are children in their fold, parents have an additional problem.  You are taken to the gate.  Children see the attraction from the outside.  They want to go inside.  They cannot be sent alone. Adults have to accompany them.  Tickets for admission are not part of the package.
  • If the aged (senior citizens would be more appropriate) are with you, the problem is even more acute.  "We have come this far.  We may not come again.  If we do not see now, we can never see it" would be their refrain.  Children may at least be promised another visit.  What about seniors?  Can we guarantee another visit?
  • The guide with you at the spot tells you that he does not know what was told to you when booking was made.  The one who made the booking is across the seas and cannot be reached.  Even if you reach him by some means, he/she would say that the questions were not asked.  He/she would also assure you that had it been asked, he/she would have truthfully answered them!
What is the solution for these problems?  It is not always possible to travel on one's own, especially to parts of the world where you do not know the local language and conditions.  Temptation to travel and see the world also cannot be resisted.  Tours by well known operators offer good value for money and have their plus points.  The real solution lies in doing one's homework and ask the right questions.  It also lies in putting some extra money in the purse or get an enhanced limit on the credit card.  Dispensing with the practice of keeping accounts while on tour is an added virtue for a leisure traveler.    


  1. Dear Keshavamurthy,
    quite funny and at the same time educative.the narrative style is very engaging.

  2. Dear Sir,

    We could make out the ART OF CROSS BORDER Selling of our Tour operators well.


  3. Instead of reading, I would I have loved to hear you narrate that conversation between the flight attendant and the passenger :)

  4. this is strange may have happened .but I have not cpme accross.It is good know many things we have not come accrosss

  5. I love youar blog for the vividity

  6. Very interesting

  7. A good narration for all tourists who go on a conducted Tour. Thanks for enlightening us.

  8. Mr Keshav Murthy,

    Thanks. A new idea could be given to the airlines to charge for the 'exit', only to be announced later inside the flight.

    Well, a recent experience of my friend tells me that the tour agent is more progressive. He took money for the Char-Dham Yatra. The agent absconded on the travel date. The people approached police and lodged complaint. Police could not trace the agent for one weak. By then the disaster took place at Utharanchal. The agent suddenly surfaced and claimed that he saved the life of all those people by not taking them for the tour.


  9. Thoroughly enjoyed it chikkappa.

  10. Dear Sir,

    Conversation is narrated beautifully.


    1. Dear sir,

      Well! this can be related to hidden charges of Banks
      Nice way of putting it.

  11. very nice sir and so true... thanks for sharing.


  12. Great reading. Your art of narration will make us to cling to the article till end.

  13. Very Good Narration. Thanks for sharing the experience from your tour. Hidden charges are always hidden in their terms and conditions.

  14. A good one. Seems future travel is full of surprises.

  15. sir,
    wonderful narration....

    As, Mr bimsbin said, i would love to hear it from you.....

  16. Hypothetical conversation was spot on and hilarious!

  17. Wonderfully hilarious and equally educating.