June 1st, 2007
One of the great conveniences of modern air travel is checking in to an upcoming flight from home. You visit the airline’s web site, enter some identifying information, and print your boarding pass from home. In many cases, you can bypass the lengthy lines at the gate and head straight to the unbearable lines at security, just in time for the latest chapter in the war on liquids. (Oh, don’t get me started…)
I travel a lot. A lot. Online check-in is a feature I take full advantage of. I’m very thankful for it. Not only can get to my regular cavity check sooner, but I’ve found an early check-in can often get you a better seat on the plane. Recent cancellations open up the more desirable aisle seats, allowing me to move out of my pre-assigned middle seat. These seats can disappear quickly, so one wants to check-in at the first opportunity, to get at these juicy seating options.
All this is great. However, the airlines still have to work out some of the bugs. Over at US Airways, I recently ran into a problem when the server had a little trouble know what day it was.
It was late in the evening when I finally had an opportunity to print out my boarding pass. Very late. In fact, it was this late, according to the clock on my Mac:
My plan, at 1:14 am, was to print out my boarding pass and go to bed. I would arrive in my office the next morning, then depart directly in the afternoon to make my 6pm flight.
So, on the verge of collapsing from exhaustion, I log into the US Airways site and am confronted with this dialog:
I enter my name, enter my confirmation code, then select today, since it was past midnight. (My first reaction was to choose the other choice, tomorrow, since I think of anything on the other side of sleep as the next day. yet today seemed more correct.)
Upon pressing the Check In button, I received this error message:
What’s ironic about all this is the date is extraneous information. They have my name and confirmation number. The confirmation is only applicable for the next flight. Adding the allegedly wrong date only eliminated the one correct query result choice.
And the site knew that. It told me the problem was the date. Since there were only two valid choices, today and tomorrow, why could it look to see if there was an off-by-one date problem. Especially since the flights were east coast (so, I was likely to be in Boston) and they knew their servers were on the west coast.
Would a human operator have done this?
Operator: What’s your confirmation number?
Operator: And when is your departure?
Operator: I’m sorry sir, but that’s not correct. You must tell me the correct date. Is there another day you’d like to try?
me: Um, maybe… tomorrow?
Operator: Yes, that’s much better. I’m glad you got your dates right. Thank you for being smart enough to fly US Airways.
Yah, I didn’t think so.
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