Saturday, 2 July 2016

Via.com Singapore user experience review

There is very little about via.com when I did an internet search on it previously. So I am writing this not to criticize but rather to inform of the strengths and weaknesses of their service so that you can make an informed decision if you ever wanted to use them.

A common question I heard online is, "Has anyone booked air tickets through via.com?"

Personally, it has been of my worst experiences with an online flight booking service to date. I was surprised given that SkyScanner.com was showing flights from their portal. So since Via.com is one of SkyScanner's partners, I felt I could trust them...

Overall experience 

Great if you have specific places and dates/ times in mind as the prices are slightly cheaper than competitors.


Just don't make changes

Don't expect much flexibility and speed. If you need to make changes, you can only make them via their Support team, and that's when things go wrong. I needed to make a change to my flight a week before a pre-booked flight. It took me three days, day and night, to make a change to one of my flights in my itinerary. More details below...


Reasons why changes are hard

  • Understaffed - This is no fault to the staff working there, but more their planning and resourcing... They are understaffed and slow to get back to you because of that.
  • Flight changes while website not always available - You can't make changes to all flights on their website, if at all. They lack integration with their flight and hotel partners, so expect to find yourself needing to go through their support team to make changes.
  • Each Via.com Singapore is different from Via.com India, and the other Via.com entities. Each has their own separate support email address and number. So don't expect 24/7 support. Expect only support in the hours of the location and entity you are working with. For me, using the Via.com Singapore, I was subject to the working hours of Singapore. After which, they cut back their manpower significantly. I was in a country only an hour behind Singapore, yet their response times during business hours ranged from 6 to 12 hours, to over 20 hours on some occasions... 
  • They have entities in UA, Philippines, Indonesia, India, Singapore, Thailand, Oman which seem to be staffed by independent support teams. You can see this in the email and support numbers available on their support page - https://sg.via.com/_support

Here's my Via.com user experience, making a simple flight change...

I was traveling and like most spontaneous travelers wanted to change a flight, so I could take a bus to another city and fly out from that city instead.

So I reached out to enquire about the cost of doing such, since it had to be a reasonable cost for me to want to consider officially changing my flight, so I went about receiving a quote, understanding why there were differences in cost when changes directly with the airline was cheaper, then accepted the costs and sought to make a booking but things were not as smooth and simple as expected...

Situation:

I took a bus to a nearby city and wanted to fly out from that city instead of an originally booked city.

Goal:

Find costs, then make changes to the city to fly out from.

Day 1

Reached out via email to seek costs. Waited for 12 hours for any reply. I ended up having to call up for someone to look at my email, where they replied that they are checking with the airline - which I felt made sense (given that their systems Sabre Technologies and Via.com are not connected).

There was no reply for another 12 hours so I reached out again. When I finally received costs, I noticed it was higher than that from the airline directly so I enquired why. This is as I was in a unique position where my traveling companion had the same flights as me however they booked direct with the airline, so I could see differences in costs.  (Direct with airline would be 30 USD or 40 SGD, whereas through them it was 50 SGD - I know, small difference, but considering that they were already taking an admin fee for the effort, it seemed odd...). 

Day 2


When I finally received details as to why. Which I understood was simply an as is cost that the airline was giving Via.com. I accepted the changes and wanted to book it. 

Day 3


18 hours later I didn't hear a reply, so I emailed back. It was another 10 hours later when they finally replied. At which point, their fares now included an additional cost for a fare difference, as the fares went up during the long lead times... 
Airline charges : 50 SGD
Fare Difference: 25 SGD
Via.com Singapore admin charges : 25 SGD

Total: 100 SGD

This is in contrast to the online website where I saw no differences in fare difference. But given how much time has passed already, I accepted it and wanted to pay asap. So I asked them for a payment link..

Their process when you want to make changes is for you to confirm the change, then they will send you a payment link. So I waited for a reply and called them for this payment link. Their reply always is to wait and to check my emails...

Day 4


There wasn't a reply for another 12 hours. I am up late into the night again, waiting for their email. I decide to call after waiting another hour. When I reach them, they said they would send the link but they suddenly had changed two of my flights instead of just the one...
I had to call them to inform them of this error, then told me they'll get back to me. After waiting and trying to stay up late into the night I wait. Turns out about an hour later they tried to call me on my Singapore mobile number and said they couldn't reach me, all the while I shared my local travel sim card number already when I first reached out to them...
It was 3 hours or so before they finally gave me the right link so I could pay. I fell asleep already so I didn't see it till the next day.

Day 5


I clicked on the payment link and paid, sent them an email to confirm - as required by them, then awaited a confirmation email...


Overall, they always told me to wait. That they need to check with their airline partner which is understandable. However, their response times were more than 24 hours each time, even during business hours. So I wouldn't see their email until late late in the day or evening.
I'm out there traveling so looking to enjoy myself. I wasn't always sitting in my hotel room waiting, on mobile data, checking my emails.. I spent at least two late nights calling the Support line on Skype and waiting up to 12 to 24 hours for a reply.
The payment link process was slow and tedious. One has to confirm a change, wait for a payment link, click on the payment link to pay, tell them you have paid, then you will receive a confirmation email.
So if there is an error, you have to wait for a new payment link. All these steps and interactions can take from 12 to 24 hours to happen, if not longer if involving a third party such as an airline or hotel that they are selling the fare on behalf...


Via.com Support Contact details

Here are Via.com contact details if that's what you need right now. In case that's why you are bringing up this blog article.

Singapore (Flights Raja Travels S Singapore SG)

+65 31 585 737

[email protected]



India (Head Office) Via.com contact details

Level 4, Block B(Magnolia),
Manyata Embassy Business Park,
Outer Ring Road, Nagawara,
Bangalore - 560045
INDIA
Phone: +91 (080) 40433000
Fax: +91 (080) 40433011
Email id: [email protected]

UAE Via.com contact details

Flightraja Travels Middle East FZ-LLC
DIC Building 16 P.O Box 85284,
Dubai, UAE.
Phone: +971 52 9855004
Fax: +971 44458529
Email id: [email protected]


Philippines

Unit 405-407, 4F Five E-com Center Building,

Blk. 18, Pacific Drive, Mall of Asia Complex,

1300 Pasay City,

Manila, Philippines.

Support Center: +632 990 0999

Email id: [email protected]



Indonesia Via.com contact details

PT.Adya Tours (VIA | Indonesia)

Pakarti Centre, 6th floor

Jl. Tanah Abang III No. 23-25-27

Petojo Selatan, Gambir

Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia - 10160

Support Center: 021 29 800 800

Fax: +62 21 38901949

Land Line: +62 21 3926770

Email id: [email protected]


Oman Via.com contact details

Flightraja Travels Middle East FZ-LLC

DIC Building 16 P.O Box 85284,

Dubai, UAE.

Phone: +971 52 9855004

Email id: [email protected]


Thailand Via.com contact details

Phone: +65 31 585 737

Enquire at: [email protected]






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