By Jan Shure
February 4, 2009
Assiduous readers of the JC's Spiel will have spotted my rant at the end of last week about unreasonable rates charged in Israeli hotels. My specific example - as you can see if you scroll to my earlier blog - was a brace of hotels in Herzliya, charging what, in my view, were exorbitant room rates in the weeks between the end of high summer and the start of the New Year and chagim.
I also mentioned a quote of £440 return by El Al during the same period - compared to a fare of £310 with BA on the same dates. What I may not have made clear was that the El Al price came from a sales rep at the airline's London office, rather than the airline's website. And, silly me, I assumed that a real person would be aware of the lowest rate - or might refer me to the website if the fare was significantly cheaper there. Especially after - on being told the rate - I asked whether she was, perhaps, having a joke, and did she know how much cheaper the BA flight was, etc.
On Friday morning, I logged on to the El Al website at the urging of my daughter, who - just the previous evening - had found return flights with El Al, from Stansted to Tel Aviv, at under £300. At about noon (trust me, the timing is relevant), I found El Al flights - Heathrow to TA - at £304 return, slightly cheaper than the BA seats. So why, I asked my husband rhetorically, back in rant mode, was I not told this rate when I called El Al's London office. And when I pressed the rep to know whether it was the cheapest fare, she assured me it definitely was.
To cut a long saga short, by the time we had all (we are going, en famille, to a wedding) got around to trying to actually book the El Al seats, the economy fare had vanished entirely for the outbound date, pushing the return price back to around £379. In the meantime, the BA fare, which we had been chasing all day, suddenly dropped to £276 for the same dates (having peaked at £340 at one point). We stopped messing around and booked, saving £34 per person on the BA fare we had considered purchasing earlier in the week, and £164 per person on the El Al fare offered by the London sales rep.
I am a big fan of El Al and I would definitely prefer to have flown El Al to Israel, and would have done so if the differential had been under £20 or so, but the airline does itself no favours when such inflated - and clearly inaccurate - prices are quoted to customers who phone rather than use the internet.
And there's another lesson here: flight prices don't just go up, they can come down, too - with all airlines. It's worth persevering