September, a great month to stay still

10:27, September 20, 2010      

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It's that time of year again when many Beijing families are bidding an emotional farewell to their adult offspring, who are finally leaving the nest for a year or two of independent living in overseas educational establishments.

Whatever feelings the students may have about their impending change of scenery, one thing they certainly will not be enjoying is the long-haul flight from Beijing to one of the great number of overseas universities that attract Chinese students.

Of course, it doesn't just impact the students - a great number of people wishing to travel to certain countries for a holiday or a visit home will be dreading the flights also.

Unless you're flying in the more comfortable and expensive classes, long-haul flights are simply deeply unpleasant. Limited space makes those old ladies reclining their seats into your knees even more aggravating and wasting all those hours can be painful. Even the most well-prepared traveler will likely end up watching at least two horrendously poor films to pass the time. Food quality varies but is largely uninspiring and artificial lighting dimmed for incongruous sleeping times does little to help.

What makes it twice as painful, though, is the price of flying in September. A typical return ticket direct from Beijing to London will usually set you back around 6,000 yuan with a good carrier in economy class during the rest of the year but in September, you'll be hard-pressed to find a flight for under 10,000 yuan to the most popular destinations like London and major American cities - even if you book in advance.

Demand is high in September due to all the students, so it seems the airlines, knowing this, can afford to raise prices to rip students off and those unfortunates traveling at the same time. Many of those wanting to go abroad are delaying leaving Beijing until October and potentially missing the start of their courses or the chance to get settled in first because, with the high price of studying abroad, an extra 4,000 yuan just isn't realistic.

There are some ways to potentially improve the price, although largely they all involve lowering convenience and comfort factors. Booking in advance as a general rule helps significantly.

Primarily, not flying direct or taking a lesser-known carrier will save you a fair chunk of the overall price. Heading to the UK, many of the better companies also offer flights through other European cities at a great reduction, providing you don't mind sitting around in Amsterdam or someplace for a few hours. Going via the Middle East or Russia can also be massively cheaper, as well as flying with their native carriers.

Connections can be a welcome break to some, but others, like me, find milling around for a few hours with less travel-weary people frustrating and would prefer to pay over the odds to go direct for the sake of convenience. Add a delayed flight and such methods of transport become a nightmare.

Often, booking through Chinese agents can also reduce the price substantially. Students often get even better deals through promotions for those in education, but it's worth checking these out as well as the individual carrier's website and other travel websites.

Ultimately though, unless you're charging your flights to expenses, avoiding flying in September between Beijing and Western capitals popular with students. Some, however, simply don't have this option.

By edward mills Source: China Daily

(Editor:叶欣)

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