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British Airways has added a new feature to its website that allows users to tailor their trips to a greater degree than before and, more importantly, far more seamlessly than before. The new feature on britishairways.com is called “Customise Your Trip” and has been added to the existing search facility on the site.
What Is Customise Your Trip?
This is what the airline has to say about its new website feature:
The new ‘Customise Your Trip’ service available online at BA.com allows customers to create a multi-destination holiday of their choice with total flexibility to combine flights in and out of different airports, book multiple hotels and select car hire for any part of their holiday.
Thanks to the new British Airways Holidays ‘customise my trip’ service, travellers can now build a more detailed itinerary, including British Airways’ partner airlines.
Put simply, the feature is an expansion of the multi-city flight tool and has been designed to allow users to build up a reasonably complex trip itinerary including multiple flights, one or more hotel reservations and one or more car reservations as well.
Once you’ve entered all your destinations, hotel requirements and car rental needs the feature offers up 3 suggestions:
- Lowest Price
For each of the three categories British Airways will suggest flights, hotels and car hire and provide a price for the whole trip. Users can then view other flight, hotels and car hire options, see how changing to those options affects the overall price and, in that way, customise their trip to a pretty detailed degree.
It seems like a very good idea.
What’s Customise Your Trip Like?
Well, I’ve tried Customise Your Trip (CYT) and, while I really like a lot of what it can do, there are still some glaring holes that need to be fixed. For example:
The British Airways’ description of the feature clearly mentions “partner airlines” as being included but I’m not sure just how may flights from partner airlines the feature can handle.
To see what the functionality was like I decided to try out a reasonably simple round the world itinerary along the lines of London – New York – Los Angeles – Hong Kong – London but CYT didn’t like that very much. More specifically it didn’t like the idea of a flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong:
It didn’t like the Hong Kong airport code and it didn’t like it when I typed in “Hong Kong” and, basically, it refused to cooperate.
I know for a fact that both American Airlines and Cathy Pacific (BA’s oneworld partners) fly the Los Angeles – Hong Kong route so I’m not sure what the issue is but, whatever it is, it needs to be addressed.
For completeness I tested out a few more city pairs (originating in the US) where an international flight on a partner airline was required and, on each occasion, I got an error message. Not a great start
Nevertheless I wasn’t about to give up.
I decided to pick a set of destinations where I know British Airways flys to/from and I also threw in an internal flight just to see if CYT could handle a domestic partner flight in the US.
The Trip in Brief:
- All flights in World Traveller (Economy Class)
- Fly from London to New York
- Stay in New York for 3 nights
- Fly New York – San Francisco
- Stay in San Francisco for 4 nights
- Rent a car on last day in San Francisco to drive down the Pacific Coast
- Stay in Carmel (Pacific Coast) for 2 nights
- Stay in Los Angeles for 4 nights
- Stay in San Diego for 4 nights
- Return rental car to San Diego airport
- Fly from San Diego to London
The way you input all your requirement is nice and straightforward and you just follow the instructions.
The first set of selections defines what else you’re offered….
…and, from there, you select how many people are traveling…..
….and you go on to input all your requirements:
Adding hotels is simple….
…as is adding a car rental:
The interface is easy to use and it’s pretty obvious what you have to do next or what you have to do if you need to go back and change something.
This doesn’t happen often but I’ll give British Airways’ web team a pat on the back for ease of use…..how well the whole thing works is another matter.
Once all the details have been added the website crunches all the information and then gives you your itinerary and options:
I’m going to ignore the astronomical cost that CYT “recommends” and focus on what exactly it offers.
Everything on the itinerary is in date order but I’m going to focus on flights, hotels and car hire individually.
The same flights were offered, by default, for all three categories of trip (recommended, lowest price, luxury)
When I checked what other options CYT could offer (in case I didn’t like those flights) I could see flights with Aer Lingus, American and Iberia as well as more BA options…so CYT can handle international flights on partner airlines when it wants to.
As you can see from the screenshots above, it can also handle domestic (US) flights on partner airlines.
These were the suggestions that CYT came up with for the “recommended” trip:
An OK selection except for the hotel CYT suggests for Los Angeles.
The Hyatt Regency Huntingdon Beach is a truly a terrible suggestion as…..and this is important….it’s nowhere near Los Angeles!
It’s nearly 38 miles to Downtown LA and it’s over 40 miles if you want to get to place like Hollywood, Beverly Hills etc…
On the basis that this feature is far more likely to be used by tourists rather than regular flyers this isn’t particularly impressive and could result in a lot of upset customers if they decide to rely on BA’s “recommended” suggestions.
As the flights were the same for all the trip options CYT suggested the difference in price had to be, primarily, the hotel options. And it was.
The “lowest price” option really didn’t come up with too many great ideas unless an AvGeek was booking the trip:
This is an airport hotel and not really anywhere close to New York City….
Another airport hotel and not at all close to San Francisco…
The good thing about CYT is you can choose to reject one or more of its suggestions and choose something you think you’d prefer. Importantly, you’re shown the impact on the overall cost as you’re going through your options:
The same is true of the rental car options.
For the “recommended” trip I was offered a tiny box of a car….
…and when I checked the other options it became obvious that I could get something better for only a little bit more:
Unsurprisingly the same car was also offered for the “lowest price trip” but the “luxury” trip had priced up something a bit higher spec (relatively speaking):
I actually really like this feature…but with a few caveats:
- I need a bit more time to check how this trip would price up if I didn’t use CYT and I sourced flights, hotels and cars separately.
- CYT needs to stop offering up hotels that are 40+ miles away from the center of city selected. Ok, I get that to get the “lowest price” trip CYT will need a bit of leeway (hence the airport hotels) but the “recommended” trip should be free of these kind of suggestions.
- Whatever is stopping me from including flights like LAX – Hong Kong or Dallas – Hong Kong needs to be addressed.
I suspect this feature will be more useful for people unaccustomed to booking complex trips than it will be for frequent travelers but, even for them, it will have its uses….especially when it comes to planing the more complex trips.
If pricing up a trip separately doesn’t come out to being significantly cheaper than using CYT then I can see a lot of people using it for the sake of convenience. I’d probably pay a little more to have all my trip info in one place and just the one portal to pay…but then again I can be very lazy sometimes so following my lead isn’t always the best way to go 🙂