As I write this I´m sitting in a business class lounge at Madrid airport waiting to board a flight to Latin America, frustrated at the fact that it is a Sunday, and my flight is currently showing as being delayed by around 3 hours. The two harsh lessons I learnt today are  

  1. My time must be worth little or nothing to the airline
  2. Google is not infallible

One of the limitations I have with this blog is that I have to be very careful about criticizing an airline as they are virtually all customers of my employer. A very small price to pay in the scheme of things. In this case (no names of course), the check-in staff knew as soon as I arrived at the airport (90 minutes prior to scheduled departure) that the flight was delayed at least two hours and offered me a lunch voucher for one of the airport cafeterias. What would have been 100 times more valuable to me (on a Sunday especially) would have been a phone call or even an email 30 minutes earlier telling me the flight was delayed, thereby enabling me to spend some quality time with my wife and daughter instead of sitting here writing this! Taking a look at the passenger detail fields on checkmytrip, I can clearly see that there are two email addresses and a mobile telephone number within my PNR, as well as a frequent flier number which obviously links to a profile with even more personal data. For anyone to suffer from a delay like this is unpleasant, but as a business class passenger with high frequent flier status, this sends a really bad message about how valued a profitable customer is by the airline. But every cloud has a silver lining, and as I will actually be visting the airline in question this coming week, I´ve now got a whole new topic to discuss and a potential new sale to be made.

The second lesson I learnt was about Google. This is a company for whom I have almost as much respect as they hold data on me, and that means a lot of respect. But this morning, before leaving for the airport I typed my flight number into the search panel and the first result was from Flight Stats showing that the flight was currently on time. So now that I know the flight is definitely delayed, I do the same search again from this PC in the airport lounge, but by now it is probably 2 hours since I did the search from home. Flight Stats via Google is still showing the plane of being on time. But when I click on the Flight Stats link, it tells me the flight is currently delayed by 190 minutes – just checked again and the delay is back to 120 minutes on Flight Stats, but Google is still showing it being on time. I did try and go to the airline´s own homepage to see what they were saying, but the homepage was down – that would have been very embarressing if it was hosted by Amadeus, but fortunately it is not the case. So going directly to Flight Stats is the lesson learnt, and unfortunately a lesson learnt the hard way.

I recently read about an interesting and innovative paid service called FLTAdvisor, but I think the real answer in all of this is airlines using technology to better communicate expected delays with their customers.