18 Jan 2010

Yield management pains

Train tickets to Stockholm 2006 style
One can travel by train all the way from London to Stockholm, and you will need these 24 tickets for the return journey. Many of them will be special offers of one sort or another, and you may get some real bargains, such as Copenhagen to Stockholm for less than £10. But if anything goes wrong on the journey, you will end up having to re-book and you may have to pay twice for the journey.

I travelled from London to Sweden by train a couple of times but gave up after that. The last straw was when the Deutsche Bahn office in London made a mistake with the bookings and I was made to pay twice, as the official on the train did not want to know about his colleague's error. I got my money back in the end but it was a bother I could have done without. Dealing with the paperwork must have cost DB more than the amount involved.

The authors of "Fast Forward" claim that people like advance booking. What kind of lives do they lead? Presumably they, and their children, and spouses, and parents, never get ill, household emergencies are beyond their experience and their entire existence is completely predictable.

The rest of us would prefer to retain flexibility in their lives and do not want to be locked in to tightly timed arrangements if at all possible. Bargain basement prices make for good advertising copy but reasonably priced walk-on fares are more in tune with the way that most people arrange their affairs. Of course it is worth using the price mechanism to induce passengers to travel off-peak but this can be achieved with a simple two-tier, or at most three-tier, fare structure.

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