Friday, October 20, 2006

Go Elong!

Interesting post again at "Migrant Worker" about Elong, the online travel agency and its plane ticket service, here in China.

But I have a totally different feeling about Elong. I actually like Elong and use it all the time. I wanted to post about it so I guess now is a good time.

I 'm booking my plane tickets by Internet because I want to buy it at the best moment. Discount are coming and going away quickly. So with Elong, you can check the price 1 month before and check it again 1 week before from your computer, and if you know the kind of discount you can get, it can be very rewarding to wait or to hurry to buy it. Of course, there are many surprise: "What??!! where is my 70% discount i thought i'd get"

One thing that happened: I had booked the ticket 1 week in advance and i found out about a great discount 2 days before the flight. I could call Elong and cancel my ticket, and book the cheap one. Of course, there is a trick: my cheap ticket was delivered to me but i had to normally pay for it. To get refund, you have to go to their local office (they have one in Chengdu, Kunming...) and there is a 5% fee.

Elong has the best site, according to me. Fast, easy to use... and clear. Better than Ctrip, better than Yoee. (i think Yoee doesn't have a delivery service everywhere). You can really consider the price, the time of the flight and make your choice, the company...
Why the company? Sichuan Airlines has free transportation to and from the airport in Chengdu if you have a ticket which discount is not superior to 50%.
Ctrip is so messy!

Now let me mention some of Even's critics:
- Yes, the English page is terrible as you can't enter Chinese characters. They really should fix that! You can't input your address in Chinese, you can't input your Chinese friends name. But actually, it's not a big deal. Yes, Elong Beijing office will call you and make sure about your booking. If they need the Chinese, they ask you to do that by email (it happened to me) or something else. At that time, they also make sure about the delivery(time and place). From experience, this is quite annoying as Elong Chengdu office will call you if these details are unsure or doesn't satisfy them...
- Not all the staff can speak English, but normally it's no problem: Beijing office call is done by somebody who can speak English. Yes, I had some call from the Chengdu office or the delivery guy... in Chinese. But I could always rely on a colleague, friend, passerby or my poor Chinese:
"- shenme shenme... feiji piao... shenme shenme?
- aaaaah feiji piao, duiduidui!
- shenme shenme... zai bu zai?
- zai zai zai! mei wenti!
- dui ba, xie xie..."
Free Chinese practice for me ;-)

- They do have to deliver to you right away. Well, I think the solution is to find somebody you trust (and is willing to pay for you in the 1st time) they can deliver to... on the webpage, you can actually give the address and contact of another person. Very practical.
- They don't guarantee the price of the ticket. It did happened to me, once or twice (it was also on short notice: on the day of the trip). But i wouldn't say it happens often. In that case of short notice, I think I would call Elong directly, I wouldn't wait them to call me back after my booking. (They do have a booking phone number)

Ok, i didn't try Ctrip. And ok, there might be several phone calls involved but for me, the point of ordering online, is that I can compare price and time and do it when i want.

Some facts (not really related to Elong actually)
-They have the good discounts (like the one you will find elsewhere). I know about the Chengdu-Kunming flight (you'll guess why). The full price is 700 RMB. I could get 210 RMB tickets sometimes. That's about 320 RMB with tax.
-The Fuel Tax has doubled from sept 1st. from 30 Yuans to 60 yuans. And I think the airport tax is 50 RMB. (Total tax is 110RMB).
- Price in Summer were really higher than now. No 70% discount at that time...
- I could get good price, even during the October golden week.

Other Elong anecdotes:
- My first time I knew about Elong was in France, 6 Month ago. I was looking for a ticket from Shenzhen to Kunming. They called me to ask me for my credit card number. At that time, I didn't know if I could trust them so I finally found another solution.
- Elong sponsored an episode of danwei tv show "sexy beijing".
- On the homepage there is a very attractive offer:
Beijing--London(RT) ¥2430
I guess I'll know if it's true only when I'll try to get it. Sounds too cheap to be true.

And another mention of Migrant Worker today on the web: see see Gokunming today's post.


Brian said...

Yeah, I agree, elong is very good. Though in Kunming, I have found I can usually get a better price for plane tickets from City Cafe...

Philippe said...

you mean this City Cafe?
Better price? can you give us some example? you sound like spam ;-)

epay said...

Philippe -- good post, and fair points. I must admit I haven't really used ctrip all that much, and can't quite compare it to elong, I just wanted to make my criticisms specific since (so far) I haven't had bad experiences with ctrip. I don't know much about city cafe but chances are it's worth a shot. I'd go with a real agent over a website in Kunming.

How are things in Chengdu?

Philippe said...

Thank you for reading that long messy post. will try to edit it a bit.

It`s nice sharing our experiences. I think a good point is: don`t rely on Elong(for example), you can adapt to them but don`t think they will adapt to you!

Will leave Chengdu soon and will go present my paper in France, then hope to find a job in China...