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Late into the game for World Cup? Prepare to pay more for air ticket

Round trip to Brazil on SIA, for example, may cost some $15,000


IF you have not made your arrangements to go to the World Cup in Brazil, be prepared to burn a big hole in your pocket to do so - you may have to blow as much as S$12,000 more.

If you are shopping only now for flights, match tickets and accommodation, brace yourself for a much higher tab to catch the June 12-July 13 soccer event.

That air ticket to Brazil on Singapore Airlines (SIA), for example, could now set you back nearly S$15,000 - and this is for an economy-class ticket.

Some "cheap ticket" websites list SIA, in code share with Lufthansa, as departing from Singapore on June 17 for S$14,915 a pop for a round trip to Sao Paulo; SIA flights out of Singapore on the same day are listed on the airline's website as going at between S$11,848 and S$13,021.

Early birds would have saved themselves as much as S$10,000.

Rajpal Singh, a 37-year-old Singapore lawyer who is making the trip with 10 others, said some in his group paid just S$2,641 when they booked their SIA flights last November. Another friend who waited until February to book his ticket paid S$4,100 for the same flight, showing that fares to Sao Paulo for June-to-July have been raised progressively.

SIA's route to Sao Paulo is popular among Singaporeans because the flight is as short as it can get: With only one stopover in Barcelona, getting there will (still) take 24-1/2 hours.

Asked for the reason for the spike in airfare, SIA said it operates flights to Sao Paulo via Barcelona only thrice a week, and these are already full; passengers flying on other days on airlines in code share with SIA will have to pay the "full published fares" shown on its website, and these flights may take different routes, and make different stopovers.

Of course, if you do not mind going on flights with more stopovers, taking longer flights or breaking up the journey, getting to Brazil could be cheaper.

Harkrishan Bajaj, a 24-year old student, for instance, is going from here to London via Lufthansa, and then from there to Los Angeles, and from there to Sao Paulo via United Airlines. His round-trip fare: $3,800, far less than by SIA.

Match tickets are where those late into the game stand to be scalped. World football governing body Fifa, which has sold all tickets via online balloting, priced them at between US$90 and US$175 for games in the group stages (though opening match tickets go up to US$495), and between US$110 and US$330 for the knock-out rounds (excluding the final match).

Online ticket companies have sprung up to charge exorbitant prices to desperate fans in need of a ticket. Mr Bajaj paid online site as much as S$1,000 per ticket per match in March for the two knock-out matches he wants to catch.

Meanwhile, Fifa's ballot has led to some fans not getting tickets to the matches they want to watch, and some other fans getting more tickets than they want.

Cue the entry of online trading platforms for barter trading of tickets - or sale of tickets at plus-plus prices.

One Singaporean fan going for the tournament told The Business Times that he knows of someone who had S$15,000 worth of tickets, but made S$20,000 from them in one night of trading on eBay.

This same source confirmed that for some in-demand games - particularly those in the popular host city of Rio de Janeiro - tickets are going at up to five times premium. He said he paid more than double to watch a first-round match between France and Ecuador there.

A check online revealed that is selling World Cup final tickets for more than US$5,600, and several other sites have priced some first-round matches at nearly 1,000 euros (S$1,713).

Hotel room rates have also shot up, and again, Rio - more than other host cities - seems to be where they are the highest.

Here again, having done advance planning helps. Mr Rajpal, who is watching matches in Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Rio, said he booked his rooms in November - at S$300 a night in Sao Paulo and S$200 a night in Belo Horizonte.

His accommodation in Rio, a three-bedroom apartment for his group of six, will cost about S$2,500 a night, which works out to S$416 a night per head. He said a friend, who booked the same accommodation in March, paid S$1,000 more a night, which will work out to S$583 a night for a group of six.

Hotels in Rio are charging upwards of S$550 or as much as S$800 a night, an online check revealed.

It appears that the old adage about the early bird applies here. Fans who nailed their flights and hotel rooms early and got their match tickets through Fifa would be so relieved now.

Just one more technicality that goes beyond the pain of ponying up so much money at one go - the matter of getting vaccinated against yellow fever ahead of the trip to Brazil, and this is mandatory.