Monday, 20 August 2018

Why KLM flight bundles might actually be useful

KLM has been experimenting with flight bundles for almost a year now. And to my own surprise, when I did some more investigation into their offering, I found it quite interesting. So what's the idea? You pay for a set number of flights to a certain destination. Depending on the destination, the number of flights, the number of people that can use the bundle and the degree of flexibility you want to have, the effective price per flight varies.

I myself am not particularly interested in flexibility when booking tickets for personal travel, so when I fly KLM, I usually do so at the very bottom end of the price range, meaning 99 euro for many European destinations. Anyone trying to book such fares knows that when there are multiple flights a day, the cheapest are always on times you don't want to fly. Outbound flights are usually in the evening, leaving little to enjoy on your first day but checking into your hotel, and inbound flights are almost exclusively the first ones in the morning, so that you have to get up at 4 AM.

Maria and child by Giovanni Bellini, Accademia Carrara in Bergamo


There are a lot of things I'm willing to do to get a cheap flight, but getting up in the middle of night is not one of them. So when I try to book a flight Amsterdam Venice, I often turn to a low cost carrier because the fare quickly gets up with legacy carriers if you want comfortable flight times and wrap flights around the weekend to keep the use of holidays to a minimum. There are other reasons to fly low cost too - and comfort can actually be one of them; more about that in a different post.

Back to the Venice case. Being a destination with a lot of competition, it's one of the routes where you theoretically can get tickets under 100 euro with KLM. This is reflected in the bundle prices too. For 20 single flights (so 10 returns) for 2 persons (5 returns per person) you pay 112 euro per return ticket (1120 euro for the bundle plus 10 euros booking costs). This is with a minimum of flexibility, meaning that you book 180 days in advance, nonflexible booking class, no checked in luggage and 3 nights minimum stays or an obligatory night Saturday to Sunday.

So then where's the benefit? Right here: you can now choose any KLM-operated flight. It means that you can always use the preferred flight time on the outbound and inbound flights, because half a year in advance, no flights will ever be fully booked. It's hard to calculate a discount without knowing individuals preferences, but it's safe to say that the slight premium on the cost per flight will give you a lot of flexibility in choosing your dates and times of travel.

Of course, payment is in advance (or in several terms) and when you choose not to use any flights in the bundle, they will expire a year after the bundle starts (shorter bundle terms are also available) without any compensation. Also, whereas normally you might choose to fly low cost every now and then, you are now bound to KLM for this specific destination.

There are a few other interesting bundles that I want to highlight. You can choose a country bundle. Crazy of Italy? Choose from any Italian destination that is part of the KLM network (Venice, Bologna, Genua, Cagliari, Catania, Milano, Florence, Torino) for spending your bundle. The price per flights is significantly higher than for a Venice bundle, obviously because of the choice of destinations that are priced higher than Venice flights.

There is even a three city trip bundle including Paris, Copenhagen and Prague. Not particularly interesting, because Paris is easy to reach by train and Copenhagen and Prague are low cost destinations. But well, let's say this is an 'interesting idea'. And there is a bundle that takes you across the whole of Europe, which will only be interesting for people with a strong preference for the most expensive intra-European flights.

You can see the flight bundles offering on https://klmflightbundle.klm.com. Similar offerings are available from Air France and low cost daughter Hop! via lepass.airfrance.fr and lepass.hop.com.

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