Alpfly.com 10 domestic flight tickets for 22k- my review

Facebook friend Anirudhra Boganadham introduced me to this website called Alpfly.com and wondered how genuine and reliable it is. I had no idea about the site but since their claim seemed possibly legitimate and beneficial, I spent some time going through the site. This post shares my finding and personal opinion about the services offered by AlpFly.com. I have not purchased their services- this analysis is purely based on information available in public domain. Please use your discretion.
What is offered by AlpFly and why you should give it a consideration?
Alpfly is promising 10 domestic flight tickets for an upfront payment of Rs 21999, subject to a set of rules.  This averages to Rs 2200 per flight, which is usually cheaper than regular airfare for flights of 1.5 hour or longer duration.  If you are a regular flyer guaranteed to take several flights over a period of 1 year, you might be able to save some money (Approx 25000 per year assuming an average flight cost of 4700-5000 between popular cities (when booked say 10-15 days in advance). At a high level, this feels like timeshare of flight tickets..

Star plan for Rs 21999 is one of the many packages Alpfly has on offer- there’re separate packages for couples, couple with kids, business, hotel nights, cars and so on. I am focusing on the solo and cheapest package- Star Plan. Terms and conditions are largely same for other packages, but be sure to do your research before a purchase decision.

So what is the catch? How can Alpfly.com offer tickets so cheap?
  • AlpFly is not a regular booking site. You can’t just enter your origin, destination and date and book a flight for cheap. It works differently.
  • You make an upfront payment of Rs 22000- this entitles you for max 10 domestic one way tickets over a period of 1 year, max 2 per month
  • Each month you can book max 2 tickets (1 round trip is 2 tickets, one way ticket with 2 stops or more than 4 hours connection time is 2 tickets)
  • You need to indicate your travel date at least 9 days in advance (7 days excluding date of request and date of travel)
  • AlpFly will take your request, work with partner airlines and only 48 hours prior to travel time your ticket will be sent to you.
  • You have no choice of airline or flight time. You should be ready to accept whatever they offer or be ready to pay a change fee.
  • Not applicable for 8 black out destination (Port Blair, Leh, Lakshadweep, Bhopal, Jodhpur, Kullu, Aurangabad) and on any gazetted holiday +/- 2 days. For August 15 long weekend you need to fly before 12th or after 18th... Not convenient for office goers.
  • Also factor about 10% lost interest on your upfront payment and the risk of you not being able to utilize all the tickets within 12 months.
  • All 10 tickets will be issued for person who has registered- you can't use it for family or friends.
How do AlpFly make money?
Though I don’t know the exact behind the scene process, below is my guess:
  1. Alpfly customers make a request for a particular date, origin and destination city, at least 9 calendar days or in advance- Assume Chennai-Delhi on June 10th
  2. Alpfly waits till travel date comes closer-like say 3 days to departure date- 7th June
  3. Alpfly accumulates list of all customers who have requested flight on same day to same destination. Let us assume 30 different individuals have sought to fly to Delhi from Chennai on June 10th.
  4. Armed with this volume, Alpfly starts bargaining with airlines, to see who can give 30 seats at lowest price.
  5. For airlines, though regular fare is say Rs 5000, they know that not all seats will be sold at that rate before flight departure. With only few days to spare, even if they can get just Rs 1500 per seat, it is a good deal, as they can fill up 30 seats and get Rs 45000 (If there's another airline with more empty seats ready to offer them at Rs 1000 per seat, even more savings for Alpfly) 
  6. If an airline says "I don't have much seats left on Chennai- Delhi, but I can give you Chennai-Trivandrum + Trivandrum-Delhi" Alpfly will happily grab it and put you on that multi-stop flight, even it means spending one full day in travel or costing you two tickets. As long as flight leaves Chennai before 2359 hours on 10th June, they have fulfilled their obligation, doesn't matter arrival in Delhi could be on 11th or even 12th June!
  7. Airline confirms to offer 30 seats on a specific Chennai-Delhi flight on June 10th to Alpfly.
  8. Alpfly then processes all its 30 customers on their flight and sends them ticket, pocketing the difference (Rs 2199 per flight- 1500 paid to airline) (1500 is an indicative number- may be more, may be less, depending on how the bargaining goes. Some select destinations like Andamans, Lakshdweep, Jodhpur etc are excluded from this program as they are either very unlikely to have enough volume on a given day to be able to bargain hard or these destinations are served by very few flights, which will always be full and bargaining is difficult.
  9. More the number of customers requesting for specific day and destination, higher the bargaining power and thus higher the savings for Alpfly. In some cases they may lose if only few people ask for specific day. I am sure Alpfly will have some agreement with airline to prevent huge loss (like some ceiling price etc)
  10. It is also possible that Alpfly would operate for a loss for first few years, powered by VC funding and focusing on customer acquisition. Once they have huge customer base, they can slowly increase the package price and also bargain harder with airlines.
Did I sign up on alpfly? NO!
Though the proposition is tempting, I didn’t sign up because of following reasons

1 Not being able to specify time: This is the biggest barrier why I didn’t sign up. Alpfly only lets you select a date, not time or airline. This severely hampers my planning. For a Friday morning flight, I need to take a day off from work but can plan to explore some places at the destination. For Friday evening flight, I don’t need leave, but I get no time at the destination. If it is mid day, I lose the most precious and productive day time hours in airport and flying, reducing the effectiveness of my trip. At least Alpfly should try to offer a time range- like departure up to 8 AM, 8AM -12 noon, 12 noon to 6 PM, after 6 PM etc. This may not be viable for smaller cities with just a few flights a day, but can certainly be offered between metros that have several flights per day.

2. Confirmation only 48 hours before flight: Even if I notify my need say 7-10 days in advance,  we will get confirmation only 48 hours prior. This means I can’t plan my self-drive car booking, hotel booking and local itinerary till last moment, which is an unnecessary headache for me. Too much uncertainties spoil the effectiveness of a trip. If you have 10-12 days trip you can possibly keep first and last day at leisure and be flexible to accept whatever flight time alpfly offers. But for short 3-4 days trip that I usually have, I need to optimize first and last day also. Also note that they only promise departure on the day specified. It could be a 2355 hours departure and arriving in destination only next day afternoon with some connection somewhere. You have no control on how you're routed. Imagine a situation- I might have had Saturday early morning onward and Sunday late night return flight in mind for a weekend trip. If I get Saturday late night onward and Sunday early morning return flight, what is the benefit of the trip? I asked their chat support if they will show the shortlisted flight and take our confirmation before booking. Response was that they will check with us once before booking, but if we don’t opt for their selection there could be a change fee of Rs 499, even when booking is not made yet.

3. Not all flights cost 2200 Rs or more.
While Rs 2200 per flight is an attractive amount, many short distance flights can actually be booked for much lesser. Remember Govt of India’s UDAN plan that caps fares at Rs 2500 for flights shorter than 1 hour? If you can plan 3-4 weeks in advance, most short haul flights can be booked for 2 to 3k one way or less, there is not much cost advantage with Alpfly. Also if there’s a sales going on, even long distance flights you might be able to grab at some cool discounts. I fly whenever, wherever it is cheap so the concept of AlpFly isn’t really appealing to me. Because of these, Alpfly makes sense only for slightly longer duration flights only or if you can’t plan well in advance to book cheap.

Also Alpfly's terms and condition says more than 4 hours transit time or more than 2 connections will be treated as 2 tickets. It is not clear what happens in scenarios where a direct flight is available (say as per makemytrip) but is full or expensive and Alpfly decides to offer a multi stop or long transit time option- why should we lose another 2200 Rs in such cases? As per some of the online reviews, this seems to be the major way in which Alpfly tricks its customers to cough up twice the amount, claiming they don't have any inventory of direct flights.

4. Not applicable on holidays (T&C states tickets will NOT be issued on gazetted holidays & festive days +/- 2 days. This simply rules out all long weekends. This could possibly be the biggest reason this plan won't be viable for working class. 8 destinations are also not allowed.
Dealing directly with airline has some advantages- Jet airways allows 24 hours no questions asked cancellation, many airlines provide a hold pin (24 hour lock on ticket price while you make up your mind], cancellation is easier and cheaper if booked directly with airline. I think we will loose these benefits when booked via 3rd party.

Should you buy the flight package at Alpfly?
Though their terms and conditions do not work out for me at present, Alpfly might help save some money to those who are relatively more flexible. In my personal opinion, assuming everything they claim on their website is true, you can try Alpfly if following conditions hold good for you:
  • You are fine with a bit of uncertainty as to which flight (airline and timing) will be assigned to you on your requested date and willing to spare an additional day if necessary
  • You can plan a trip 9 calendar days or more in advance
  • You are guaranteed to take 10 or more flights per year (spread across the near, not all together)- mostly long haul (2 hours or greater) which usually cost about 4k to 5k under normal circumstances.
  • Once booked you have very low probability of having the need to cancel/modify your flight
Alpfly being a new company, not much is known about their credibility and reliability. As such airline service industry is complicated. With one more player in between if anything goes wrong or you need some changes, you will have more running around to do. It is also recommended to wait for a month or two for some feedback to emerge from current users. But the risk of waiting is that once they get enough subscribers, amount payable may go up a bit for new members.

Note that all information as available at the time of drafting this post. Rates, terms are subject to change over time. Please check with the website for latest.

Similar: Budget airline add-ons: which ones are really worth? * How to travel the world on budget? *  Air Asia Big sale hack

6 comments:

  1. A balanced review. I too would avoid signing up for some of the reasons cited. I suppose it is good for small business travelers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, for anyone with lots of time and flexibility. Thanks Ami

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have taken star plane package rs.21999.00 on 2nd march vry gud service. Till now i have used my 4 tickets from kol to blr sec no problem directs flight ..
    These is my review

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good to know your experience and feedback.. Hope everyone gets good service like you got

    ReplyDelete
  5. i m Augstine. i and my friends booked 4 star plans. we have travelled 20 travells. every travel we had to have so much of uncertainty. we had to pay additional. there were senior citizen in one trip - alpfly was so cruel to them - 20 hours sitting at a airport. this 4 star plans provided us a loose of 30000 altogether additional for our 20 travels (lodge, car, food, additional payment to alpfly) + the tension and uncertainity. we can never plan anything for sure. one thing is sure, we will fly only at midnight... in all ways IT IS A GREAT DEAL !!! You can contact me for further details - 7827199622

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for sharing your experience Augustine..... Hope your remaining flights will be better.

    ReplyDelete

Appreciate your efforts and interests to comment. Comments may be moderated due to increased spam. Will ideally respond to comments within few days- Shrinidhi

Powered by Blogger.