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Thalys' doubtful advertising...


I don't remember ever booking a summer trip this early... But, this year is different, since we are taking our parents in law along. Now, some of you may think us crazy, but we still want to give it a try and make it a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We are travelling to the South of France to spend a couple of weeks in sunny Provence...

I know the Thalys offers very special SUN rates on the Saturday trains to Avignon (and further), so since January I have more or less been stalking the travel office in the Brugge trainstation, to be sure I am in time... The travel agents told me that booking would be possible from about 3 months prior to the trip.

Early March... Yes... The brochures about the Summer Thalys have arrived... But, they were sent right back because there was an error in them. OK, here we go for patience... Last weekend I took another look on the Thalys web site and yes... They were available. I mail the travel agents straight away. On Monday my travel agent tries to book the tickets and... no more availability... I mean, I haven't even seen the brochures arrive at the train station yet and the seats are already sold out!

Tuesday morning, train station Brugge... Yes, the brochures are in, advertising very advantageous rates to the sun... Now, I am a very easygoing and understanding person, but this I want explained... So I call the customer service at Thalys, where I am told that the rates have been available since early March and that the kind lady has not heard of any error in the brochures. I know she probably can't help it, but I know I have been checking the web site regularly since January and I have not seen the SUN rates until last Sunday.

Conclusion... Next time I will book the tickets online, without the travel agent, which is probably what Thalys wants, but about which my travel agent will gladly protest to the VVR (the Flemish Travel Agent Association).

But... and this is more important, I think, Thalys is luring customers with rates that have very limited availability. By the time the brochure arrives in the train stations, the seats have most likely already been taken. This is different from the early booking system airlines use, where you pay less if you book earlier. There is no time limit, only an availability limit... I ended up booking probably the same physical chair but at a much more expensive rate... This is what I would call doubtful advertising by Thalys...

Nevertheless... we will try to enjoy our holiday in France...
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