Have you ever tried to purchase a cheap ticket to Milan through the SNCF website ? I did, and failed.Actually I didn't have a chance in the first place.

I love Italy and when I have a meeting there I take the advantage to stay couple of days there. So when the invitation arrived to visit Milan, I started checking my options. Officially there is a low cost flight from Marseilles to Milan with “My Air” ,Practically this company probably does not yet have planes, and I failed to find any flight. So I headed to the SNCF site, and there I found a trip from Nice to Milan direct.

Great, now I have to find the prices, the low cost ticket costs 15 Euro while the expensive one 30 Euro. The difference is 100% so I obviously wanted to purchase the cheap one. I found the time and the date and clicked “purchase” and… nothing “Technical error, try again later” even though such as error message shows that something is wrong with the website I somehow tend to blame the incompatibility with the Firefox (I am a proud Firefox user) so I tried the MSIE and… Technical error try again later.


After two days of technical Errors I started suspecting that nothing is wrong with the site and it may as well be the SNCF. So, I tried to reach the purchase page of the expensive ticket. Surprise, surprise it worked like a clock work !

I was new in France and couldn't believe it so I tried again the cheap ticket and was still surprised to get: “Technical Error try again later”. As a technical person I know perfectly well that its not a technical error after all both tickets are being purchased using the same system and if one works then the other can either be deliberately eliminated or did not exist in the first place (decoration).

I printed the pages and headed to the SNCF ticket office, where they told me that the cheap ticket can be purchased only on-line. I showed them the papers and suddenly they all stopped speaking English.

I came back home furious, and using my contacts in the media I contacted the press office of the SNCF which forward my complain to the relevant department which sent me…. a questionnaire. A damn long and irrelevant one, a real complain killer. It contained questions like: what CPU you you are using ? What firewall ? What operating system ? The exact minute you tried to purchase and many other… none of the relevant. I e-mailed them back with the screen shots (which they lost in the first time) explained that its not relevant as a website sales system either work or don't work.

From here on I just got the questionnaire back again and again (and in French) so I gave up…

The SNCF is an expensive monopoly, that have complete control over the mass transportation in France and from France abroad. It works very hard a spend a lot of money on public relation, however obviously as a monopoly it doesn't care much about the people using its services.

The only revenge I could think of was to purchase the ticket via Trenitalia (30 Euro also) and write this little story.