While writing this I am somewhere above Russia on a flight from Shanghai to Amsterdam. After writing my last post about the problems I had to book a ticket on the KLM site my assistant finally managed to get me a seat on today’s flight. The economy class is still reasonably full (probably 60-70%), but the business class is almost deserted. There you really see the impact of the financial crisis, these planes used to be packed – both economy and business class.
My original plan had been to only fly to Europe once this month, for a short 4-day trip at the end of the month for a visit to Spil Games and to do three speaking engagements (at a “China Tafel” dinner at the Industrieele Groote Club in Amsterdam, at the Mediapark Jaarcongres (a media conference) and at the Nationale Marketingdag (National Marketing Day)). But because my grandmother died a few days ago I decided to go back this week as well for two days to attend her funeral.
When I tried to book the tickets for my late-June trip to Holland a couple of weeks ago the price was over RMB 16,000, which I found way too expensive. I decide to wait and see if the price would come down and worst case I would use another (cheaper) airline, although I did not really want to waste time by transferring to a different plane (KLM is the only airline with direct flights from Shanghai to Amsterdam) on such a short trip. When I checked the price for the 2-day trip this week I also got a price quote of more than RMB 16,000, which I found way too expensive. Sure, I would pay it if I had to, but there had to be a cheaper solution.
And indeed I found one: I combined the two trips and booked a ticket Shanghai-Amsterdam-Shanghai, with the date for the first leg today and the return flight at the end of June after my speaking gigs. The other ticket I booked was Amsterdam-Shanghai-Amsterdam, with departure date in two day and a return flight in late June for my second trip. Amazingly the total of the 2 flights was less than the price of just 1 of the original flights! Sure, there are more restrictions, but I don’t care. The original ticket was only available without restrictions, even though I would have preferred a cheaper restricted ticket.
Also I only get 25% of my miles instead of 100%, but even that’s not a big deal. At several occasions I tried to change my miles for flights, but I never succeeded. I think I have over 500,000 miles in my account that are basically worthless. I have the feeling KLM is trying to phase out its Flying Blue rewards program, only for expensive full-fare tickets you still get full miles and you lose them if you do not fly enough. In case you speak Dutch, read this article in De Telegraaf as well, which states that KLM is chasing away its loyal customers (especially the comments show what KLM frequent flyers think about the airline!).
I learned one thing: if I should do another short trip to Holland this year and the price is again so high, I am going to book two tickets like I did now. Even if I would not use the second leg on both tickets, it would still be cheaper. The KLM likely won’t give me any miles if I don’t take the return flights, but if you only get 25% anyway you might as well go down to 0 miles. Does any of my readers know if this strategy could somehow backfire? I mean, KLM will not be happy with an extra no-show, but is there anything else they could do?