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Mark Smith Amadeus Total Rail Forum Nov 2012 complexity of booking rail

Mark Smith a.k.a. The Man in Seat-61 talked about his customers’ frustration of being confused and bemused over booking rail tickets. You can see his presentation here, ” Buying train tickets… The passenger’s perspective”

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Mark Smith Amadeus Total Rail Forum Nov 2012 complexity of booking rail

  1. 1. The passenger’s perspective…
  2. 2. Who is the man in seat 61? Mark Smith
  3. 3. Some numbers… 1.2 million visitors per month. 26% UK, 21% other Europe, 26% N America, 18% Asia, 7% Australia & NZ 67% from organic search: “Train London to Nice” Top European pages: How to buy Euro train tickets, UK-NL, UK-Italy, Italy, UK-France, UK-Spain… Top worldwide pages: Malaysia, Thailand, China, Vietnam, India, United States, Canada. 30 emails a day, feedback & questions…
  4. 4. What do the passengers say?They like the: relaxed nature of train travel; greater space & comfort; city centre arrivals & departures; ability to work, read, enjoy the scenery; connectivity: Zermatt or Como, Bruges or Siena. experience of travelling on Europe’s new high-speed trains…They increasingly dislike: Airline extra charges & hidden costs; Getting to/from the airport, airline baggage restrictions; Airport security hassle, stress, the ‘herd’ experience.
  5. 5. …but when it’s time to buy a ticket “So much more complicated than booking air travel…” Confused… “So many websites to book European trains, which should we use?” A different one for every journey! Bemused… when told to book Milan to Zurich on one website (, but Zurich to Milan on another ( Ticket delivery often a problem, unlike airlines… Incredulous… When told to use 2 or 3 websites to book one simple journey, e.g. Zurich to Florence = for Zurich-Milan, for Milan-Florence, as SBB can’t sell the new Trenitalia domestic fares from €9…
  6. 6. And people are… Nervous… about co-ordinating bookings on 2 or 3 websites to make one journey, worrying about getting something wrong. And what happens if the first train is late? More confused… When even in English versions they see terms like ‘Salottino’ or ‘Butaca Super.’ or poor translations “Double seat compartment” for ‘double berth sleeper’… Confused by fares… What are ‘Smoove’, ‘Optiway’ and ‘Dribbel’ which should they choose? Do they qualify for a ‘Smart’ fare? “Airlines just show the cheapest price for the trip, it’s easy!”
  7. 7. Not to mention… Frustrated… when bookings aren’t open due to engineering work, e.g. a TGV or Elipsos train strangely absent from search results with no explanation… “Is it cancelled, or just late opening for booking?” “Should we wait and see? Or give up and fly?” Frustrated… when bookings aren’t open due to timetable changes. For Christmas, people start to look in Sept & Oct, and if rail cannot quote them a price, they give up and fly! More frustrated… When their credit card is rejected at the end of a booking, a couple of sites notorious for this: “I never have problems paying on airline sites…”
  8. 8. Traps for the unwary…
  9. 9. Overseas visitors… Are fully aware of cheap budget air fares in Europe, but usually unaware of Europe’s cheap budget train fares; Often think only alternative to budget flights is an expensive railpass, so end up taking flights; Opportunity to grow rail? Need far more explanation than train operators provide, e.g. do they need to ‘check in’ for a train? Is there a baggage car? Do they check their luggage in?And I’m always being asked… Are seats 21 and 25 really together? Are berths 21 & 25 in the same sleeper compartment?
  10. 10. Paris to Barcelona Billions spent on new line; Paris-Figueres by TGV Duplex; Easy change at Figueres onto train to Barcelona; Classic example of ticketing problems making it difficult to use a train service; A new direct train service will soon resolve this… …but is the only way to sort out train ticketing to create a direct train between every European city???
  11. 11. What’s changed since 2010? Industry getting more fragmented. E.g. Weekend in Milan, out by Thello sleeper, back Sunday afternoon by TGV now needs to be booked in 2 different places; Choice of 2 operators on routes such as Milan-Rome; Choice of zero operators on Venice-Ljubljana or from anywhere to Greece; Ticketing improvements: Trenitalia payment problems solved; MAV-start now offering online booking for international journeys; best practice for London-Amsterdam/Cologne…
  12. 12. Happy^Christmas! 25 December
  13. 13. Can we make train booking easier?