I’m flying – well, sort of

Starting at... Original flight price, Bravofly, November 13, 2016
Fig. 1. Starting at… Original flight price, Bravofly, November 13, 2016

I think I’ll start with the good news. There’s so little of it. After decades of neglect Deutsche Bahn has moved Hannover main station to within 2:30 hours of Frankfurt airport. With a little advanced booking of several train tickets, this can be achieved rather cost effectively. That cuts out the need to consider flying from the nearest airport. And meanwhile in Berlin the automatic doors at the new airport won’t open or shut, so the grand opening has been postponed yet again to next year. Sigh.

Choose your price, Bravofly
Fig. 2. Choose your price, Bravofly
I had started by looking at prices from Hannover just to see if price and duration could be kept in a meaningful relationship. Flight times of 33 hours there and 29 return were really not too bad, and the price appeared reasonable at Bravofly (€1,272, Fig. 1), that then became €1,304 if you wanted to pay by bank transfer, or €1,282 if you wanted to pay with an actually existing credit card. Including a discount of €21, which makes no sense at all (Fig. 2). Sorry, no time for such games.

Same story with Expedia
Fig. 3. Same story with Expedia
Expedia offered similar flights for just a bit more (Fig. 3), and the outward flight was somewhat less time-consuming. But it’s the alternative spelling that gets me (“Uhr” as in German “o’clock” is written with a capital letter and as a separate word), as well as the WordPress theme “Dog’s Breakfast” used to format the pricing information. Did I say something about the price being reasonable, because there was nothing to be booked at this price, instead the price skyrocketed to over €7,700 in the next step (Fig. 4). Oh, and Expedia gets the 2017 Creepiest of the Creepy Crawley Awards for their charmingly threatening little widget pair, “366 people have already booked a flight to XXX with Expedia today” and “288 people are looking at flights to XXX on Expedia at the moment” (Fig. 5). Funny how the numbers never change. Not that they even make any sense without context. Bye, Expedia, it’s ex for you and good riddance.

For that price I could fly six times
Fig. 4. For that price I could fly six times
GoogleFlights came up with a similar pair of flights, but with different carriers. since they are not in the travel business as such, the only way of booking the flights would be direct contact to the airlines (the flight over would involve one leg Hannover to Zürich, which is why Swiss is given as one of the airlines to book from, Fig. 6). A call revealed that their price was actually around Sfr 2,500 (give or take the same amount in €), so that was the end of that.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Expedia
Fig. 5. Tweedledum and Tweedledee, including poor grammar (twice “bei”), Expedia
Onto Frankfurt. Almost immediate relaxation of the prices by over €100, and, of course, much more flexibility of getting there and back by train. After having sussed out a couple of candidate airlines I went to the Qatar Airways website (oh, dear, sounds like a touch of pneumonia) and tried my hand at booking directly with them. The flights on offer seemed to take little more than the 24 hours absolutely necessary, and left in the late afternoon and arrived in the early morning, which suits me fine. The only caveat here is that Qatar was flying directly from Dohar to Auckland, meaning 16 hours in the can on the way there and 17 on the way back. I only hope this qualifies me as an astronaut. But it was getting late and I needed to make a decision. Which I did for somewhat less than €1,200.

Not at Swiss, we take francs
Fig. 6. Not at Swiss, we take francs
I then proceeded to book a reasonably priced flight separately with Air New Zealand to Invercargill at a reasonably early time to complete the journey.

Only later did I find out that Qatar has never ever flown this route before, and the previous attempt at doing so had been called off. Now, that put a different perspective on things. Either I am going to be among the first thousand or so people to undertake this rather questionable flight, or we are going to be dumped in Melbourne or Sydney and arrive a couple of hours later and late in Auckland. Just to be on the safe side I rebooked Auckland to Invercargill for a couple of hours later to allow a stopover in Oz, and booked the flexi tarif into the deal which would allow me to book an earlier flight if we did do the marathon flight. That added another $50 in change surcharge to the bill, but it was the last thing I was worried about.

And since hope springs eternal – it’s looking rather empty in the cabin DOH-AKL at the moment, and the Qatar website allows you to choose and change your seat as often as you like. Currently I am plunked in the middle of a group of three seats with no one else in the entire row. Well, perhaps another 366 people will book onto this exactly flight via Expedia on each and every day of the remaining two weeks, so I’ll be stuck with a screaming baby on one side and someone in need of 1½ seats on the other.