Tuesday, October 09, 2007

How can Airlines continue to be so out of touch?

I was booked on a United Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles. At JFK, waiting for the flight, which was scheduled to leave at 8.45pm, it was 8.35pm and the plane had not yet arrived. Then an announcement was made that the plane had not yet landed so departure had been delayed to 8.55pm. This was an absurd announcement and clearly a lie, as there was no way that would happen. As time passed, more announcements were made, with departure steadily being for 20 minutes ahead. All this did was irritate passengers. While clearly designed to keep passengers in the gate area, it was completely unnecessary since the plane had not even landed!

This illustrates how airlines continue to fail to connect with and understand their customers.


Jonathan said...

I had a similar experience at Barcelona airport last year. The flight eventually arrived three hours late. At the time it was due to arrive, it had not even taken off from London, but apparently Barcelona airport had no idea what was happening or when to expect it. Evidently airports either lack modern information systems, or they don't use them.

Jonathan said...

Off the top of my head, I can think of two fairly easy ways in which the situation could be improved.

1. Whenever an aircraft takes off, the source airport sends an e-mail message to the destination airport, giving the flight number and the time of actual takeoff. This requires action from airports but no action from airlines.

2. Each aircraft puts its approximate location and/or ETA somewhere on the Internet where airports can find it -- or sends it by e-mail to the destination airport -- and updates the information at regular intervals. The information could be encrypted if felt to be sensitive. This requires action from airlines. The location of the aircraft could be sent automatically without human intervention; the ETA could perhaps be computed automatically too.