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10:21am on Monday, 16th August, 2010:
I booked my flight to Austin today, in order that I can be there to pick up my award. I did mention that I was getting an award, didn't I?
Booking flights these days is always an exciting and fun experience. The cheapest return flight offered by the Heathrow site (via Lastminute.com) was about £560 — £700 cheaper than the next-cheapest — but the incoming trip involved a 9-hour layover in Newark from 9pm Saturday to 6am Sunday which didn't sound sane. I couldn't book the outgoing trip in combination with any other incoming trip, nor even find it on the sites of the airlines involved ("United, flight operated by Continental"). Looking at the web sites of individual airlines (excluding BA — well done, strikers, you lost another customer and put another nail in your job's coffin) I found weirdnesses such as flights to Austin that cost more one-way than the same flight cost in conjunction with a return, and "direct" flights that spent 3 hours in Chicago. Oh, and one from Heathrow that involved a change at Gatwick.
I finally went with a pair of United flights that the Heathrow price comparison system found for me and that was cheaper than if I booked the identical flights on United's own site (mainly because of the exchange rate, I suspect). As usual, it had a little box to check:
As I could have been ticking my life away by checking that box, I took a look to see what it was to which I was agreeing. The Terms and Conditions looked fairly standard, including a few gems such as promises not to send me email but being unable to promise that the people they tell my email address to won't. The Visa and Health regulations, however, looked like this:
Well, I can honestly say I did read them, even if they didn't make a lot of sense. That's more than I could say for the Fare Conditions, because when I clicked on that link this appeared:
Thankfully, that box is labelled "Fare rules", not "Fare Conditions", so strictly speaking I don't have to read its contents. Just as well — it could say "£50,000 IF YOU READ THIS" in there and I wouldn't know.
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