The Samoa Airways booking system is currently undergoing testing and upgrades, so explained the airline’s Marketing Manager, Mr Dwayne Bentley, during an interview last week.
He said the new airline recognizes that their current booking engine is inadequate to meet the expectations of their international travellers’ booking flights with them.
The airline has been in operation now for two weeks and has acknowledged that they have hit some complications after receiving complaints from would-be travellers.
Mr Bentley acknowledged that they were aware that their current booking system was not on par by international standards before the airline was launched, but that time constraints prohibited them from installing a booking engine at the start that was adequate enough to meet the various demands of international flight enquiries.
“One of the challenges that we faced in the beginning was not having enough time to do everything that we needed to do and so what we’ve had to do is just move forward as best as possible with what we had but we also looking forward to the new technology and ways of doing things which is where the new booking agent comes in.”
“When it was announced that the international service was going to be up and running again, we knew straight away that the current booking engine was just not good enough, especially when we looked at what the other carriers around the world are offering so we’re working very closely with our reservations system partner.”
“In terms of the booking engine being a lot more user-friendly and people being able to see the different fares available a week out, we are also at the same time working on a brand new, booking engine. We are in the process of testing the different components of the booking engine and we hope to finalize and launch everything before the end of the year.”
Ms Jo Mikarna, was one of the first travelers who encountered problems and was featured in an article titled “Lack of flights devastate prolific visitor to Samoa”.
Ms Mikarna said that she was unable to find suitable flight options available with Virgin airlines after they reduced their flight options to Samoa and she also found that flights around her preferred travelling dates were booked out with Samoa Airways, when she searched on their website.
“Samoa Airways fly from Sydney but they do not run every day and all flights are booked out” Ms Mikarna said a week ago.
Mr Bentley reached out to Ms Mikarna through the Samoa Observer to counter the impression that there is a lack of flights between Australia and Samoa and later assisted her with her booking.
However the misinformation and confusion did not end there.
The Samoa Observer has received further reports from the public who were also experiencing confusion with Samoa Airways’ booking system which showed flights were “booked” when they were not.
Enquiries were then put to travel agents to see if they were having the same experience.
One local travel agent confirmed that the current booking engine was causing problems for them as well as travellers wishing to book flights to New Zealand and Australia through Samoa Airways.
The agent pointed out that the current booking system is the same used previously when Polynesian Airlines serviced flights to and from Pago Pago,
On being told this, Mr Bentley acknowledged that they were experiencing difficulties with their website; initially with their banks credit card processor.
At the same time he said, they were working to address the issues with their booking engine.
“The issue that we had up until recently, has been with our banks credit card processor so the booking will go through fine, but then when it got to the page where people had to enter their credit card details, that’s where people were having issues.”
He said that has since been resolved.
Addressing the feedback the airline was receiving about their website not being “user friendly”, the Samoa Airways marketing manager said, “That’s something we will take on board and we will look at how that information can be better presented on our website so that people are not just clicking on any day not realizing that we only operate on certain days especially between Samoa and Sydney.
So again, just in terms of the user-experience, that’s something we will feed back to our web developers and booking team just to make sure that its more obvious than what it is currently. “
Mr Bentley is confident that by the end of year, customers will not only be able to have a better online experience with the improved website and booking engine which they are expecting to launch by the end of the year but that passengers can also expect other aspects of their travel experience to improve.
“When it comes to travel from 2018 onwards that booking system will be operational, we’re confident that it will really improve the user experience online.
“There’s room for improvement – there’s always room for improvement , I think that’s very much where our focus is on right now and at the same time making sure that that safety component is there and our guests get the service that they paid for with regards to in-flight catering that’s going to be an ongoing improvement. We will look to change that out and refresh those meal options available based on feedback not only from the passenger but from the crew just to make sure that what is being provided is the best that we can provide.”