As throngs travel the land, the Internet lends a hand

By Yu Tianyu (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-24 07:52
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BEIJING - It is the season of the largest annual human migration in the world when billions of trips are being made by people heading for their hometowns for Spring Festival reunions with families.

Instead of getting a ticket home in the old-fashioned way, such as waiting in the freezing cold outside a railway station or having to afford a price hike for an air ticket during the travel peak time, people are finding there are easier ways to have an inexpensive trip, made available in the Internet age.

A 28-year-old IT company engineer named Ma Chi, for instance, found a way on Ctrip to save 522 yuan ($79) for his journey home.

Just by clicking his mouse, Ma joined a flight-pooling activity launched by the listed online travel agency, which gives travelers discounts if they book air tickets as a group.

Hundreds of best-selling air routes are available with as low as 30 percent discounts on working days between Jan 10 to 21.

The departure cities include Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu - and they only need three to five people to make it a group.

Shao Jihong, director of flight ticket operation at Ctrip, said: "The flight pooling activity has covered peak time before and after the seven-day Spring Festival holiday - while the upwards 30 percent discount makes our ticket price generally lower than on the market."

Also, China's largest e-commerce site has launched its ticket sale promotion on Jan 10 with more than 2,000 discounted flight tickets that offer up to 50 percent discounts.

The site put forward the seckill (short for "second kill"), which offers tickets at rock-bottom prices to reward buyers for their frequent visits. The first user to click their mouse on the product then wins.

The activity begins at five separate time slots each day with 80 tickets available per slot.

Chui Xue, manager of Taobao's travel platform, said: "The activity covers 80 air routes departing from 10 cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Taiyuan."

But some buyers said it is too hard to gain a ticket this way.

Wang Zheng, a Beijing-based manager for an international trade company, said: "Mission impossible. That is the conclusion of my five-day attempt to seckill a ticket.

"Without meals nor answering natural's call, the tickets usually were carved up in three seconds when I haven't clicked my mouse," Wang said with disappointment.

The flagship online store of China Eastern Airlines also carried out promotions of "buy two, get one free" promotion since this month.

Others rewarded travelers with cash in promotions.

The Chinese travel search engine launched its Spring Festival promotions in which they promised 200 yuan cash back for each booking on their site from Jan 9 to 15.

In addition, the search engine also launched lotteries during the same period with 100 tickets as reward a day.

Zhu Ting, a tour guide in Shanghai, said: "the dazzling promotions and seckill - or even group purchases - are just drops in the ocean when it comes to such huge groups of travelers.

"Going home does need some amount of good luck."

China Daily