The truth about ticketing
Trip Start Sep 30, 2005
88Trip End Jun 04, 2006
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It was at the in-town check-in where I started to come unstuck, in the way that Formula 1 cars do in 150mph crashes. It's easy, you hand over the ticket first, then passport, drop your bag on the carousel and get the formalities of the security questions out of the way and off you go.... Not when the very kind lady working for Dragonair started to frown though, and especially not when she asked if I had another passport, which I don't. She explained with a pitying smile that my ticket was only valid for citizens of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to use. Everybody else has to pay a different "special" price - aka fleece the tourists, I believe.
Too perplexed to be angry, I went down every route of questioning I could think of and the lady at the check-in counter made phone call after phone call on my behalf. I think she knew all along that the only way I was going to Taipei today was by buying a full price ticket at the airport, but she tolerated my disbelief and although she didn't say it, she probably couldn't believe that anyone had been so daft as to sell me the ticket. That or she thought I was some kind of half-witted lunatic.
A full price ticket was three times more than the cost of the ticket I'd already bought. However, I could only get a refund from the people I'd bought the ticket from back in China, so if I went to Taipei I was going to be seriously out of pocket. When you've travelled several thousand miles though, a 1 hour flight to somewhere you're very curious to visit has a pretty significant price limit on it and four times what I thought I was paying (including the non-foreigner ticket I'd already bought) was beneath my threshold.
It gets better though. You get to the airport, and you know there are several airlines flying Hong Kong-Taipei that morning so I asked around a few ticket desks for the best price. Amazingly, they all charge the same price, HKD3300, which unless I'm mistaken is as fine an example of oligopolistic price collaboration as I've ever seen. Up against a brick wall, there's not a lot you can do except go with the airline with the best quality of service. At least Taiwan's China Air would let me into their executive lounge for my money.
There's a moral to this story somewhere...: Don't be mistaken for being a nationality that doesn't match your passport in a land where the ticket pricing isn't as transparent as it might be. It's not exactly profound as morals go, but it's also a very polite version of my thoughts on this ticketing system. At the end of the day I'm not sure that there's much you can do to avoid getting stung like this short of buying tickets very close to your departure airport and dragging the travel agent along when you check-in. It's just another travel experience to put in the bank.